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

Admittedly Random Coronavirus Information

Since a number of those who read these pages are 60 or older, and those 60 and older have been consistently reported to be at greater risk of dangerous Coronavirus-related complications and death than the younger population, I sought to discover currently-indicated mortality rates for those over 60. The first citation below links to a piece indicating that the risk of dying for the more senior infected by the virus roughly doubles by decade: for those aged 60 – 69 it is 3.6%, for patients aged 70 to 79 years it is 8%, and for patients above 80 years of age it is 14.8%.

[NOTE:  The data related to the septuagenarians and octogenarians underlying the first link is apparently derived from a Chinese study based on 72,000 case records that I found cited on other sites (no links to those attached)]. [SECOND NOTE:  Since the information underlying the first link is dated in late February, I’ve searched for more recent data; the second link below is to a MarketWatch story updated as of this morning (March 9), which still appears to rely on the same Chinese study for mortality rates among those 70 and older.]  [THIRD NOTE:  It is seemingly arguable that the virus is accelerating much more quickly than the data.]

We have seen indications that the disease can be particularly dangerous for adults with “underlying health conditions.” I have seen two sites that indicated that about 60% of U.S. adults have at least one affliction that would be considered “an underlying health condition.”

Below are links to four sites addressing different aspects of the challenge. Although I obviously lack the knowledge or resources to verify their accuracy, I found them informative.

Age, Sex, Existing Conditions of COVID-19 Cases and Deaths

https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/coronavirus-age-sex-demographics/

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/coronavirus-fatality-rates-vary-wildly-depending-on-age-gender-and-medical-history-some-patients-fare-much-worse-than-others-2020-02-26

How Does Coronavirus Kill?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okg7uq_HrhQ

A Reason Viruses Can Originate in China

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPpoJGYlW54

A Modest Note of Optimism for Trump’s Coronavirus Response

Although in his Wednesday press conference President Trump sought to quell Americans’ fears by expressing a more optimistic view about our ability to address the Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) than is shared by the Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”), Mr. Trump did signal (notwithstanding his self-serving asides) that his government knows that the threat is serious, and that by appointing Vice President Mike Pence to be the Administration’s point man — despite reports that Mr. Pence failed to competently address an HIV outbreak in Indiana during his days as Governor — that the Administration is taking it seriously.  Although the Administration’s record for dealing with scientific reality is atrocious, this challenge doesn’t involve any conservative shibboleths.  I think we now need to wait to see whether the Administration’s efforts are effective.

On Thursday morning, MSNBC’s Morning Joe panel, while grudgingly giving Mr. Trump some credit for his response, noted that our national ability to address the virus is now somewhat hampered by the manner in which the Administration has, through budget cuts, reduced the strength of the CDC and other U.S. health agencies and our assistance to world health organizations. During his press conference, Mr. Trump brushed away such concerns, saying that the Government will be able to get needed people back and that we will spend the money we need to spend. For once, I tend to agree with the President: no matter the level of antipathy a wronged health official might feel about the Administration, the potential danger here is of sufficient magnitude that it’s hard to imagine that any relevant expert, if asked to serve, won’t immediately respond to the call. I also believe that money won’t be the problem: Mr. Trump indicated during his press conference that he was ready to take the funding appropriated by Congress, which is some four times larger than that the Administration had asked for. If Mr. Pence asks for more money in the future, I am confident that Congress will appropriate it. Right now, we are behind the curve, but as was the case after our Pacific fleet was destroyed at Pearl Harbor, we have the best talent, and despite our deep deficit, still have the financial means to stage a comeback. If we come up with a vaccine, our economic machine will reproduce it and distribute it worldwide. No American politician of any stripe will stand for drug company profiteering.

There is one other reason to feel optimistic: for once, our nation’s and the world’s health fortunes run in the same direction as Mr. Trump’s political fortunes. Members of the Morning Joe panel suggested that Mr. Trump’s focus during his press conference was to steady the financial markets.  Perhaps; if so, it would reflect a lack of understanding that the S&P 500 consists of corporations with global operations whose profits seem destined to be significantly adversely by the disease’s worldwide impact no matter what happens in America.  That said, I have trouble believing that the President doesn’t comprehend that if there is a significant panic and/or spread of Coronavirus in this country, and the Administration is perceived to have responded inadequately, he will lose the presidency resoundingly, even to U.S. VT Sen. Bernie Sanders. This is the kind of threat that trumps (if you will) even our deep cultural divide – a threat, like an invasion, that will affect Red and Blue states equally. Any health crisis will overwhelm his messaging.  He won’t — although he would undoubtedly try — be able to effectively shift the blame to Mr. Pence.  I recall – subject to correction by those with perhaps better memories — that President George W. Bush’s core support actually began to dwindle during his second term not because of his egregiously terrible decisions in Iraq and the Middle East, but because of what was perceived to be his Administration’s inadequate response to Hurricane Katrina. So in this I have complete confidence: assuming that Mr. Trump understands that doing the right thing — in this case, to pull out all stops to control to the extent possible the spread of the Coronavirus in the United States — is in his best interest, he will do the right thing.

I know very little about the virus and the attendant illness (COVID-19), and others may feel the same.  What follows are two links to recently-published descriptions of myths about the virus.

The World Health Organization

https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public/myth-busters

Johns Hopkins

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus/2019-novel-coronavirus-myth-versus-fact

[Comment: since I believe that this is the first time I have ever posted on three consecutive days, this is to reassure exhausted readers of these pages that such is an aberration; given the need to tend to other chores — such as our income taxes – it may be a while before another note surfaces.]

On Fair Play

Major League teams are in the process of beginning their Spring Training schedules, after an off-season marred by continuing and I believe undisputed revelations that in 2017, the Houston Astros engaged in a scheme, involving participants from its front office to its manager, coaches and players, to employ videography accompanied by trash can banging to systematically steal opposing teams’ pitch signs and alert Astro hitters to the specifics of the next pitch. Such activity was in flagrant disregard of Major League Baseball rules. For those that don’t follow Major League Baseball (“MLB”), the Astros won the 2017 Major League World Championship after defeating the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series and the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series. A number of Houston executives and 2017 Astro players hired into non-player roles on other teams in the years following the team’s championship have now been dismissed from their positions as a result of the scandal. No still-active players have been disciplined by MLB, reportedly due to a deal that MLB made with the players and their union that no player would face retribution for speaking truthfully to MLB investigators about the Astros’ program.

A deal is a deal, and given the deal, no players should be disciplined specifically for their participation in the scheme (although one questions whether any 2017 Astros player should be seriously considered for the Hall of Fame or for any front office, manager, or coaching position when his playing days are done). That said, MLB Commissioner Robert Manfred should, without any change in individual players’ statistics, forfeit all 2017 Houston victories in which the team employed the scheme, strip Houston of its American League and World Championships, and declare the Yankees the 2017 American League Champions and the Dodgers the 2017 World Champions. He should accompany such a ruling with an announcement that any player determined to have participated in such a flagrant rules violation (admittedly a subjective standard) after the date of the announcement will be suspended from baseball for one full season, with more severe penalties including an outright ban from the game for any subsequent flagrant rules violations.

Such an approach is admittedly imperfect. The team most elevated in the standings by the recasting of the 2017 American League teams’ wins and losses will argue that it never had a fair chance to compete in the season’s playoffs, and the Yankees will argue that they never had a chance to contest the Dodgers for the World Championship. I would submit that such is irrelevant. The Astros, in 2017 an extremely talented team, would have earned a number of their forfeited victories without cheating. While there will be old-school sign stealing in baseball as long as there are bases in baseball – it’s as engrained in the game as the brushback pitch — it is a short step from the Astros’ technology-enhanced trash can banging to employment of sophisticated and undetectable technological means to gain illegal advantage in baseball and other professional sports. The point of the penalty is to make the consequences to the Houston organization and the threat to players’ careers for future violations sufficiently severe so that for the foreseeable future, every team and player will have significant pause before engaging in such a systemic flagrant violation of MLB rules.

I am tired of a culture that explicitly or tacitly condones and in some ways glorifies ignoring, bending, flouting, and breaking rules. We need honor again. Given the challenges we face as a nation, cheating in Major League Baseball is arguably “of as little account as sparrows’ tears,” as Ian Fleming concluded the James Bond thriller, You Only Live Twice; obviously, players have been seeking an illegal edge through spitballs, corked bats, and steroids for decades or more. That said, we have to start somewhere. Major League Baseball, given its proud claim to being the National Pastime, and its tens of millions of diehard fans across the political spectrum, seems as good a place to start as any.

It’s Donald Trump

For generations it was held that to win the U.S. presidency, a candidate had to reach beyond his party’s ardent adherents and secure the majority of the vote of the American political center. In 1992, the Clinton Campaign famously declared its overriding focus: “The Economy, Stupid.” In recent days, I have heard former South Bend, IN Mayor Pete Buttigieg intone: “To win the presidency, it’s not enough to tell people what you’re against. You have to tell them what you’re for.”

Sometimes … maxims are wrong. In 1980, Americans turned to the unnerving “Mad Bomber,” Ronald Reagan, because they had no confidence in President Jimmy Carter. George W. Bush and his strategist, Karl Rove, won in 2004 through a strategy of focusing almost exclusively on energizing and turning out Mr. Bush’s core supporters.

I have heard more than one pundit voice something that all Americans can agree upon: anyone that mounts a campaign for the presidency has a huge ego. What’s more, the Democratic candidates on the stage Wednesday night, aside from former New York, NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg, have all been on the trail for at least a year, and their respective beliefs in themselves have undoubtedly been reinforced by the fact they have thus far survived in a brutal contest that has felled 15 or more other candidates. In his book, Marathon, Jules Witcover described a campaign for president: “It is a grueling, debilitating, and often dehumanizing ordeal ….” I suspect that their inner faiths now include a visceral feeling that because each has absorbed so much adversity, s/he deserves the presidency.  These gut inclinations are now arguably augmented by envy and resentment toward Mr. Bloomberg, who has surpassed most of them in the national polls through profligate use of his essentially unlimited means. I fear that the debate will degenerate into a mud-slinging scrum that benefits only President Trump.

This week, Wall Street Journal Columnist Gerald Seib laid out the dichotomy between the respective theories of the campaigns of U.S. VT Sen. Bernie Sanders and Mr. Bloomberg:

“Mr. Sanders believes Democratic voters are ready to overthrow the system. Mr. Bloomberg thinks they merely want to overthrow President Trump….[T]he fact that Mr. Sanders is running against Mr. Trump is almost secondary; the Sanders view of society’s economic injustices is the same one he would be offering regardless of who was on the Republican line….Mr. Bloomberg touts [his positions on] health care … gun laws and battling climate change. But … [t]he animating argument is that Mr. Trump is dangerous … that beating Mr. Trump is way more important than ideological arguments.”

As anyone that reads these pages recognizes, my sentiments echo those attributed to Mr. Bloomberg. This year, it’s not the economy. The general perception – whether or not accurate – is that Mr. Trump’s economy is booming. Yet his approval rating is below 45%. In Wisconsin, his disapproval rating is 10 points higher than his approval rating despite a state unemployment rate of 3.3%. He is 12 points under water in Michigan despite an unemployment rate of 4.1%. He is 9 points under water in Iowa despite a state unemployment rate of 2.6%. He is at best even in the other swing states although all have unemployment rates below 5%.

Mr. Trump’s low approval rating is presumably not related to Americans’ perception – again, whether or not accurate – of our national health care system. A significant majority of the states that U.S. Census Bureau statistics indicate have the highest percentages of uninsured will almost certainly be won by Mr. Trump in 2020.

Mr. Trump’s low approval rating is presumably not related to Americans’ perception – again, whether or not accurate – of his handling of foreign policy. He has been making good on his campaign pledge – whether or not wisely – to reduce the level of America’s foreign entanglements.

One could add to this list, but three is enough. Mr. Trump’s low approval rating is because … it’s him. A majority of Americans have at least tentatively concluded that Mr. Trump is unworthy of his office: that he has no regard for truth, with demonstrable indications of racism, sexism, and religious bigotry; that he seems an unstable, incompetent bully; that he relishes in stirring division and openly welcomes the assistance of foreign enemies for his own ends. They are concerned that he apparently considers himself unrestricted by all norms, rules, and laws. They are bothered by his evident contempt for the institutions and practices that have made us different from the rest of the world – an honest judicial system, a free press and free speech, respectful disagreement — and for those that act with honor, conviction, and principle – such as John McCain, Purple Heart Recipient Alexander Vindman, and Mitt Romney. They are troubled by his clear willingness to trample anything that gets in his way. They inherently know that it is wrong for an American President to use his power against a domestic political adversary, and they know he did. They inherently know that it is inappropriate for a President to financially profit from the responsibility that they have entrusted to him, and they know he does. They are uneasy with the notion that even if they are not in the crosshairs today – as he has focused his venom on his critics, brown immigrants, and Muslims – they could be tomorrow. They have come to realize that Mr. Trump is, in the words of another Wall Street Journal columnist, Peggy Noonan: “A bad man, and half mad.” That he is, indeed … un-American.

So while I concede that no Democratic candidate can spend all of his or her time addressing the stain that Mr. Trump has placed on our national fabric, I nonetheless submit that in this campaign year, Mr. Buttigieg is wrong: the Democrats’ key to victory is not what they’re for, it’s what they’re against. It’s Donald Trump. If in tonight’s debate the candidates too pointedly attack each other, it will seem to me a counterproductive ego trip. If they aggressively attack Mr. Bloomberg, it will demonstrate almost criminal political incompetence: the only way that any Democrat will be able to counter Mr. Trump’s overwhelming financial advantage in the fall is through maintaining Mr. Bloomberg’s largesse. They should put aside individual ambition for the good of the nation.

“I Want Nothing to Happen While …”

As all who care are aware, on February 7, 2020, President Trump removed from their respective positions European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondlund and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, two witnesses whose testimony implicated the President in a scheme to pressure a vital but vulnerable ally for his own domestic political purposes.  The President has since commented that he “imagine[d]” that the military would “take a look” at disciplinary action against Lt. Col. Vindman, a Purple Heart recipient.  There is a link below to a National Public Radio account of the removals; what follows is included within the NPR piece:

“Sondland and Vindman join a long list of other witnesses in the Trump impeachment investigation who have moved on from their jobs. Former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovich has retired from the foreign service.  William Taylor, who had replaced Yovanovich in Ukraine after Trump recalled her, left in early January.   Kurt Volker, the special envoy to Ukraine, resigned as the impeachment process was unfolding.  Jennifer Williams, a career foreign service officer who was assigned to Vice President Mike Pence’s office, recently left for a new position.  And Tim Morrison, Vindman’s boss at the NSC, left after he testified.”

https://www.npr.org/2020/02/07/803904417/lt-col-alexander-vindman-escorted-out-of-the-white-house-his-lawyer-says

On February 11, 2020, the United States Department of Justice, led by U.S. Attorney General William Barr, said that it was reducing the sentence it was recommending for convicted Trump confidante Roger Stone after the President tweeted that the 7-9 year term initially recommended by DOJ was “disgraceful” and a “miscarriage of justice.”  There is a link to an NBC News account of the DOJ’s shifted stance immediately below.  The four U.S. attorneys involved in Mr. Stone’s case, career prosecutors, have withdrawn from the matter in protest.

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/doj-backpedalling-sentencing-recommendation-trump-ally-roger-stone-n1134961

All, literally, within the first week after the President was acquitted by the Senate.

If I were any Republican Senator save U.S. UT Sen. Mitt Romney, I would be thinking:  What have I done?  (I concede that they are all probably too busily engaged, cowering in corner stalls of Capitol Hill washrooms, to have such reflections.)

In a note I posted almost two years ago about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of the interactions between Mr. Trump and his associates and the Russian government, I quoted passages from Mario Puzo’s novel, The Godfather, and suggested that Mr. Trump’s legal fate might rest upon whether Mr. Trump had read the novel and utilized the manners employed by the fictional Don Vito Corleone to insulate himself from prosecution for untoward activities.  My speculation was obviously entirely wrong; Mr. Trump has ignored the safeguards practiced by the Don, and yet seeming flourished; clearly, whether or not he ever read the novel, he did see and internalize The Godfather Part II:

https://getyarn.io/yarn-clip/1fac5597-4d66-4a04-9a9d-979b45357926

One cannot help but be dismayed at these events, and at the prospect of more like them.  I would, however, submit that they contain a silver lining that is not insignificant, if one still believes in the good intentions of the majority of our people:  the President is overplaying his hand, is moving too soon.  He is flaunting his self-perceived omnipotence, lack of scruple, contempt for the rule of law, voraciousness, and vindictiveness in the face of our people before securing his re-election, instead of sitting back, and letting his Fox News and Alt-Right propaganda machine, the Democrats’ disarray, and and the seemingly strong economy do his work for him.  He’s perhaps making a mistake, one that the fictional Michael Corleone would never make.  It’s not too late.

Impeachment Impressions from a Hemisphere Away

While the Senate impeachment trial unfolded in Washington, we were half a world away, visiting Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on a trip planned months before. While south of the equator, we were only vaguely aware of the reports that former National Security Advisor John Bolton’s upcoming book included allegations directly implicating President Trump in the events at issue in the Impeachment trial, of the controversy surrounding Trump Defense Lawyer Alan Dershowitz’ bizarre argument in the president’s defense, and of the speculation as to whether the Senate would call additional witnesses.

One of the highlights of our visit was a tour of Rio’s historic district, Centro, provided to us by Daniel, an extremely personable and truly trilingual Carioca. (I came to the city understanding that all Rio residents were Cariocas; with a twinkle in his eye, Daniel advised me that one needs to be born in Rio to truly be considered a Carioca; mere Rio residence, no matter how lengthy, is not enough to qualify.) He quickly felt like a friend. He has an extensive background in Brazilian history. Well into the tour, I asked him about an article that had run that week in the major Brazilian daily, O Globo, which reported that Transparency International had placed Brazil in the bottom half of all of the world’s countries in its Corruptions Perceptions Index. (Full Disclosure: O Globo is published in Portuguese; this was the only article I could decipher all week because “corrupcao” readily translates to “corruption,” and the piece depicted by graph Brazil’s corruption ranking among the world’s nations.)

Brazilians have contempt for most of their politicians, due to the country’s level of corruption. Of their three prior presidents, one has been convicted of corruption, a second faces charges for leading a “criminal organization,” and the third has been impeached within a context that she had served as Chairwoman of Petrobras, the semi-public Brazilian oil and gas company, at a time when billions derived from Petrobras operations were illicitly changing hands at Brazilians’ expense. Other Brazilian officials are in prison due to illegal enrichment related to the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Daniel hadn’t seen the O Globo article, but wasn’t surprised by it; he is angry at the level of corruption in his country. As an example, he pointed to the new train tracks at our feet, installed in the historic district’s cobblestone streets prior to the Olympics to facilitate transportation during the Games, and indicated that the project ended up costing Brazilians millions of Brazilian Real (R$) more than necessary, due to kickbacks. He is an enthusiastic supporter of Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s current right-wing President elected in 2018. President Bolsonaro is a nationalist and a populist. As widely reported, Mr. Bolsonaro is skeptical of environmentalists’ claims about the Amazon, and favors more development in the region. He opposes socialism and LBGT rights. But Daniel made a passing reference only to Mr. Bolsonaro’s positions on the Amazon, instead emphasizing a factor rarely mentioned in the Western media: Mr. Bolsonaro appears to be honest – a unicorn in Brazilian politics. Although a member of the Brazilian national legislature for decades, he was not tainted by any of the scandals that have felled his predecessors. He ran on a pledge to reduce crime and root out corruption. Daniel believes his country has greatness within it. He sees that it can only be achieved through honest government.

The contrast between Daniel’s belief in Mr. Bolsonaro’s honesty and Daniel’s aspirations for his nation, on one hand, and Mr. Trump’s tribal-driven impeachment acquittal, on the other, could not be starker. U.S. TN Sen. Lamar Alexander stated before the vote: “There is no need for more evidence to conclude that the president withheld United States aid, at least in part, to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens; the House managers have proved this … The question then is not whether the president did it, but whether the United States Senate or the American people should decide what to do about what he did …. [Mr. Trump’s removal via impeachment] would rip the country apart, pouring gasoline on the fire of cultural divisions that already exist …. Let the people decide [Emphasis Added].”

U.S. NE Sen. Ben Sasse stated: “Let me be clear, Lamar speaks for lots and lots of us.”

U.S. FL Sen. Marco Rubio stated: “Just because actions meet a standard of impeachment does not mean it is in the best interest of the country to remove a President from office. I will not vote to remove the President because doing so would inflict extraordinary and potentially irreparable damage to our already divided nation. [Emphasis Added].”

While there is certainly merit to the argument that Mr. Trump’s removal from office via impeachment could incite potentially irreparable divisions between our people – an apprehension held by one very close to me – I would nonetheless submit that for Senators who have taken an oath to protect the Constitution, such concern should have been irrelevant, and is no more than a self-serving rationale designed to protect the Senator’s own political position and/or legacy. Messrs. Rubio and Sasse, and those Republican Senators whom Mr. Sasse claimed Mr. Alexander “spoke for,” have, as was the case with former Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan, abdicated the responsibility placed upon them by the Constitution rather than confront Mr. Trump. We are sacrificing to partisanship, greed, and fear our dedication to right, truth, and justice that the Brazilian tour guide and billions around the world yearn for: the very characteristic that actually made us great.