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Fri Jul 10, 2020, 09:15 PM

Friday Talking Points -- Doubling Down On The Stupid

The campaign to re-elect Donald Trump president has gone all-in on a remarkable strategy: they're going to double down on the stupid. Call it the greatest attempt at gaslighting ever, we suppose. The idea is to just pretend the coronavirus pandemic doesn't exist and continue to ignore any evidence to the contrary. And they actually expect this to be a big winner for them with the voters.

Here's the story which first caught our eye, which explains the new Team Trump strategy in full:

The goal is to convince Americans that they can live with the virus -- that schools should reopen, professional sports should return, a vaccine is likely to arrive by the end of the year and the economy will continue to improve.

White House officials also hope Americans will grow numb to the escalating death toll and learn to accept tens of thousands of new cases a day, according to three people familiar with the White House's thinking, who requested anonymity to reveal internal deliberations. Americans will "live with the virus being a threat," in the words of one of those people, a senior administration official.

"They're of the belief that people will get over it or if we stop highlighting it, the base will move on and the public will learn to accept 50,000 to 100,000 new cases a day," said a former administration official in touch with the campaign.

Let's just repeat that, because it is so jaw-dropping: "the public will learn to accept 50,000 to 100,000 new cases a day." What remains unsaid in that is: "and they will not assign any political blame for this disastrous turn of events to Donald Trump." When all you've got is stupid, you naturally think of doubling down on it, in other words.

Trump is also apparently convinced that suburban mothers across the land will thank him for putting his own re-election chances ahead of the health of their children. No, really:

The push to reopen schools, as openly acknowledged by Trump's campaign, is fueled at least in part by concern over his increasingly poor re-election prospects.

"The suburban mom will say 'I'm going to stick with President Trump on this one -- because he wants to make sure my kid gets back to school'," Trump campaign senior adviser Mercedes Schlapp said in an online video.

Again, left unsaid: "...no matter whether it is safe for my kid to do so or not." They really think this is a winner for them, which is stupid beyond belief, really.

So let's check in and see what those moms really think, shall we?

Exit polls in 2016 showed Trump winning white voters by 20 points (57-37), while a post-election analysis by the Pew Research Center put the number at 15 points. The recent Monmouth poll, by contrast, shows Trump winning white voters by just two points (48-46), Suffolk has him up just one (49-48), and the Marist poll has him up by six (51-45).

The main driver of this: college-educated white women. The exit polls showed Trump losing them by seven points (51-44), but today the gap is 29 points in the Marist poll and 28 points in a recent Post analysis of polls. A New York Times-Siena College poll last month even showed that deficit stretching to an astounding 39 points.

This group accounted for a larger share of the white vote than any other gender/education combination, at 20 percent of all votes cast. In other words, if Trump is actually seeing these kinds of declines, it will shave real points off his vote share.

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the one constant has been that President Donald Trump picks the stupidest possible position to take, and then staunchly defends it against a tidal wave of reality. For instance: over and over and over again (including as late as last week), Trump has proclaimed that the virus is just somehow going to "magically go away."

Trump staked out the position that wearing face masks was a political statement against him, so all his followers now refuse to wear masks. This has already led to a steep spike in coronavirus cases reported in Tulsa, two weeks after his pathetic rally there. How many other Trump supporters are going to get sick? How many of them will decide that maybe now's not the time to attend mass gatherings of people? We'll see, in the coming weeks.

Trump decided that reopening states as early as possible would be a show of political support for him, so a bunch of mostly-Republican-led states did so -- and are now seeing their caseloads explode.

Trump has now decided to force everyone's kids back to school with no regard for their own safety, and sends out Cruella de Vil... oh, excuse us, "Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos"... to sell America's parents on the idea. Trump then forced the Centers for Disease Control to change their scientific guidelines for school safety because they're "too harsh and too expensive." Let us state that again: Trump is overruling scientists for his own political reasons, and by doing so putting millions of children at risk. And this is supposed to win him the suburbs?

Trump, so far, has completely ignored or dismissed the recent spike in cases across the country. We are now at a point that is twice as bad as the worst of the first wave in March and April, with 60,000 new cases appearing per day. The newest projection estimates that we will see 200,000 deaths by Election Day. And Trump won't even acknowledge that the problem even exists. This is beyond dangerous, this is downright psychopathic.

Trump is still planning on holding his convention speech in Florida, even though it is now one of the hottest of multiple pandemic hotspots in the country. The only concession to reality yet has been tentative plans to maybe hold the speech outdoors somewhere. In Florida. In August. Boy, that'll be fun to attend! No wonder so many Republicans in Congress are already bailing on the whole idea (even Mitch McConnell hasn't said he's going to attend). And no wonder so many lifelong Florida Republicans are bailing on President Trump.

And the only other thing Trump seems to want to run on at this point is defending Confederate statues and the Confederate flag. Because boy, that'll win all those suburban moms back!

Trump, of course, promised very early on that he'd listen closely to the advice of "his generals." So what is the nation's top military officer now saying about renaming bases in the South? Here is Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Mark A. Milley, speaking to the House Armed Services Committee [link:"https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2020/07/09/milley-confederate-bases-trump/|this week]:

The Confederacy, the American Civil War, was fought, and it was an act of rebellion. It was an act of treason at the time against the Union, against the Stars and Stripes, against the U.S. Constitution, and those [Confederate] officers turned their back on their oath.

After noting the Army is now about 20 percent Black, he continued:

For those young soldiers that go onto a base -- a Fort Hood, a Fort Bragg or a Fort Wherever named after a Confederate general -- they can be reminded that that general fought for the institution of slavery that may have enslaved one of their ancestors.

Trump, though, doesn't seem to be listening to "his generals" much anymore. Which is a shame, because the issue of the Confederate flag, statues, and other honors isn't nearly as potent -- even in the Deep South -- as it used to be. But Trump thinks his base requires this red meat, so he continues to throw it to them.

There's really no other term for it. Team Trump has decided to double down on the stupid.

Privately, Trump does seem to be aware of the reality that he's not only losing to Joe Biden, but losing pretty badly. Heck, even his favorite pollster (Rasmussen) has him down by 10 points. Trump is also hitting new polling lows for his pandemic response (67 percent disapprove, 33 percent approve) and his handling of race relations (67 percent disapprove, 32 percent approve). So Trump, the ultimate snowflake, has taken to whining about how unfair the world is to him, apparently to anyone and everyone who walks into the Oval Office:

Callers on President Trump in recent weeks have come to expect what several allies and advisers describe as a "woe-is-me" preamble.

The president rants about the deadly coronavirus destroying "the greatest economy," one he claims to have personally built. He laments the unfair "fake news" media, which he vents never gives him any credit. And he bemoans the "sick, twisted" police officers in Minneapolis, whose killing of an unarmed black man in their custody provoked the nationwide racial justice protests that have confounded the president.

Gone, say these advisers and confidants, many speaking on the condition of anonymity to detail private conversations, are the usual pleasantries and greetings.

Instead, Trump often launches into a monologue placing himself at the center of the nation's turmoil. The president has cast himself in the starring role of the blameless victim -- of a deadly pandemic, of a stalled economy, of deep-seated racial unrest, all of which happened to him rather than the country.

Because it is always, always, always all about Trump, to Trump.

We wonder what he's thinking about the weather gods right now, because a tropical storm just forced him to cancel his next rally, which was planned for New Hampshire this weekend. Ironically, this week also saw the full and unredacted final report on Sharpiegate, which (no surprise) concluded that Trump's administration put not making the president look like an idiot for an idiotic mistake in a tweet above keeping people safe and informed by the best science possible about hurricane risks. So maybe the storm gods are getting their revenge?

Speaking of revenge (and destroying statues), it seems Melania Trump isn't as popular back home as she used to be:

A life-size sculpture of first lady Melania Trump, carved into a tree in Slovenia by a local artist using a chain saw last year, was set on fire July 4, according to its creator. It has since been removed from its position on the banks of the Sava River, near the first lady's hometown, Sevnica.

The defacement came the same day President Trump delivered a speech in the shadow of Mount Rushmore, a monument to U.S. presidents, decrying the vandalism of public sculptures by protesters seeking to confront racism.

Speaking of racism, let's check in and see how Jeff Sessions is doing in his run for his old Senate seat, shall we?

Sessions attempted to highlight his support for police in the Trump administration in the interview with The [New York] Times by alleging that former President Barack Obama was not on the side of law enforcement. He said his mantra at the Justice Department was "back to the men and women in blue."

"The police had been demoralized," he told the outlet. "There was all the Obama -- there's a riot, and he has a beer at the White House with some criminal, to listen to him. Wasn't having a beer with the police officers. So we said, 'We're on your side. We've got your back. You got our thanks.'"

OK, let's unpack the many racist lies contained in that short statement. First off, there was no "riot" of any kind. Not even close. What happened was a professor couldn't get his front door open. This professor can best be described as:

...one of the most prominent Black scholars in the nation. He is the director of the Hutchins Center for African and African-American Research at Harvard University. "He was awarded a MacArthur Foundation 'Genius Grant' in 1981, was named one of Time magazine's '25 Most Influential Americans' in 1997, has created 15 documentaries based on his scholarship and currently hosts the show Finding Your Roots on PBS," The Harvard Crimson reported.

This is the man Sessions referred to as "some criminal." The police arrived at Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.'s house and promptly arrested him for trying to gain entry into his own house. When the news broke, President Barack Obama responded:

I don't know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts, what role race played in that. But I think it's fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry; number two, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home; and, number three, what I think we know separate and apart from this incident is that there's a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately. That's just a fact.

Republicans went ballistic, because a Black president had dared to call a white police officer "stupid." So Obama convened what became known as the "beer summit." Which brings us to the next gigantic racist lie from Sessions. Because the summit was held with Obama, Gates, and the police office involved, contrary to what Sessions said.

Nothing like watching that Republican minority outreach in action, eh?

Which brings us to the final stupid news of the week, because Kanye West now says he's running for president. No, really. As Hunter S. Thompson would likely have said: "When the going gets stupid, the stupid turn pro."

As has become standard in election season, let's start with a rundown of recent campaign ads.

Vote Vets has a new ad out hitting Trump on the Russian bounties story and calling Trump a traitor. From the script: "No one has betrayed those in uniform like Donald Trump.... This July Fourth, Benedict Arnold can step aside, because Benedict Donald is America's number one traitor."

There are two new ads out poking fun at Trump's rally line: "You put the wrong person in office, you'll see things that you would not have believed." Both are worth watching.

MeidasTouch also has an ad out flipping the "Creepy Biden" label back on Trump (who, lest it be forgotten, once said he'd like to date his own daughter).

And the most sobering ad of them all came (once again) from the Lincoln Project. It is titled "100,000 Dead," which is pretty self-explanatory. The imagery is downright brutal.

We have to give Honorable Mentions to both the Biden campaign and Bernie Sanders, as the "unity task forces" finally released their report of their recommendations for the Democratic platform document. There are plenty of progressive items, although none of them go as far as Bernie and his followers would have liked (example: support for legalizing only medical marijuana, not recreational). But the whole thing was a triumph of party unity -- Bernie got a lot more say in this process than he did the last time around, and he's pretty happy with the outcome. Biden shows he will listen to the progressive wing of his own party, but that he's also the one in charge. All around, pretty impressive. Again, it's a lot more moderate than progressives wanted, but the voters chose the moderate candidate, so that's entirely fitting, we suppose.

Senator Tammy Duckworth (who lost both her legs in combat, fighting in the uniform of this country) also deserves an Honorable Mention this week, for having to push back against Tucker Carlson (who never served in uniform a day in his life). Carlson said some downright disgusting things about Duckworth (that she "hates America," for example), so Duckworth tweeted back from the highest of moral grounds:

Does @TuckerCarlson want to walk a mile in my legs and then tell me whether or not I love America?


But this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week goes to the wife of former Representative Patrick Kennedy, former school teacher Amy Kennedy.

This week, Kennedy defeated political science professor Brigid Harrison for the nomination to run in New Jersey's second congressional district. Harrison had been heavily backed by the South Jersey Democratic machine, while Kennedy had the support of progressive groups.

In November, Kennedy will face off with Representative Jeff Van Drew, a conservative Democrat who switched to the Republican Party last year to support Donald Trump. Kennedy had a message for Van Drew after her primary victory: "We have had enough division, enough hate, enough selfishness, being abandoned, mistreated and forgotten. We've had enough of you and Donald Trump."

This will be a very closely-watched race in November, but for now Kennedy delivered a very big progressive win against the Democratic machine. For that alone, she is our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week.

[It is out blanket policy not to link to campaign websites, so you'll have to see Amy Kennedy's contact information out yourself if you'd like to let her know you appreciate her efforts.]

We're also staying in the House for our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award.

These types of things are all too common in Washington. Rather than have a big public fight, lobbyists will pay legislators to use all sorts of procedural tricks to derail legislation they don't like -- as quietly as possible, for the most part.

This time, however, the politician in question is getting some serious blowback -- which is entirely deserved, because this is such a serious issue.

The political arm of an anti-monopoly group is blasting Massachusetts Rep. Richie Neal (D) in a new TV advertisement for "killing a bill" that would have helped health care patients at the expense of a top donor's bottom line.

The 30-second spot, set to air on network television in the Springfield, Massachusetts, media market for the remainder of July, tells the story of Neal's last-minute decision to stall bipartisan legislation curbing "surprise" medical billing in December. Surprise billing refers to a practice, widely derided by consumer and patient advocates, in which certain groups of doctors not participating in a hospital's insurance agreements send insured patients eye-popping medical bills after surgery or another medical procedure.

The ad, sponsored by Fight Corporate Monopolies, a political nonprofit created by the antimonopoly American Economic Liberties Project, alleges that Neal's dependence on campaign donations from private equity titan Blackstone Group is the driving factor behind his resistance to reform.

Blackstone owns TeamHealth, which owns physician practices that profit from "surprise" billing (the ad calls the practices "hospital monopolies" ). And employees of Blackstone have given $48,600 to Neal this election cycle, making the firm his largest source of contributions from a single company.

"Corporate power is corrupting democracy and Richie Neal is part of the problem," the ad concludes.

. . .

In the fall of 2019, bipartisan "surprise" billing reform appeared to be the rare systemic policy change headed for passage under a divided federal government. With President Donald Trump's apparent blessing, Senate Republicans had signed off on a proposal to prohibit surprise billing, cap insurance payments to out-of-network doctors at $750 and force them into arbitration to haggle over money above that amount.

But Neal, whose taxes-and-spending-focused committee had only nominal jurisdiction over the billing regulations, ground the process to a halt by presenting his own counter-proposal in December that would give more leeway to hospitals and doctors. A summary of the bill, which Neal introduced with his conservative Republican counterpart on the committee, Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), touted its deference to the "private market dynamics between insurance plans and providers."

More than seven months later, "surprise" billing reform has not advanced in Congress.

"There's no question that Chairman Neal's movement very late in the process to assert his very, very narrow jurisdiction over this issue created uncertainty and slowed things down at the end of the last session," Frederick Isasi, executive director of the nonpartisan patient advocacy group Families USA, told HuffPost in April.

This could have been law now. And if it had been enacted, it could be providing peace of mind to uncountable numbers of people who are now getting their "surprise" COVID-19 treatment bills in the mail. Unfortunately for them (and for us all), that never happened.

For Pete's sake, the bill Neal killed actually had Senate Republican support and was going to be signed by Trump. That is incredibly rare, these days. And a lone House chairman decided his corporate donors were more important than passing it.

For shame, Representative Neal, for shame.

{Contact Representative Richie Neal on his House contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.}

Volume 581 (7/10/20)

It's been a stupid sort of week for Donald Trump, so we've got some stupid sort of talking points this week to cover it all. Stupid is as stupid does, right?

We will protect this

Too, too funny.

"The Trump campaign sent out a plea for donations this week with a rather unusual claim. They proudly stated: 'We will protect this' over a photo of the state of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janero, Brazil. As far as I am aware, Christ the Redeemer was never a Confederate general, so it's hard to even know what they were going for here, especially considering that the statue is on another continent and is under no threat whatsoever from anyone. Someone did point out on Twitter that: 'In fairness, Christ the Redeemer is the first result when you search Google for "Christ statue"... you shouldn't expect much more out of the Trump campaign.' Even so, that's a pretty well-known statue -- you'd think there would be someone at the Trump campaign whose job it is to not send out really stupid messages like this."

My father, who art in the Oval Office...

This one should immediately follow that last one, obviously.

"You would be wrong to think that, though. Another begging plea went out from Team Trump this week, purportedly from Vice President Mike Pence. In it, Pence uses the term 'my father' to refer to Trump. So, let's see... he calls Trump his father and his wife 'Mother,' so... [pause for laughter]. Now, to be fair, they probably just cut and pasted the same text from a begging letter from Donald Trump Jr., but even so this are some pretty amateurish mistakes coming from the Trump campaign, you've got to admit."

Um... what?

Then again, consider who they're trying to elect.

"Donald Trump proved that Trump University never had a basic math course this week, as he tweeted out a message he was exasperatingly giving, quote, 'for the 1/100th time.' Um, one-one-hundredth? Does that mean he's got to tweet it out 99 more times before it even counts as one time? Or does the 'very stable genius' just not have the basic understanding of fractions that a fifth-grader would have? Maybe someone can take a Sharpie to a weather map to fix it for him or something...."

Not-stupid wins in Oklahoma

The Republican Party has, quite stupidly, painted itself into the corner of being against more people getting health insurance for a long time now. Funny thing, though, their voters don't seem to agree, when given the chance.

"I see that the citizens of Oklahoma -- about as red a state as you can imagine -- just voted to put Medicaid expansion into their state constitution. They used this method so that the Republican politicians in the state government won't be able to sabotage it. The people have spoken, and they want Obamacare's Medicaid expansion, even after millions of dollars were spent trying to talk them out of it. Almost 40 states have now done so in one way or another. Because try as they might, Republican politicians cannot convince even red-state voters that affordable health insurance for more people is a bad idea."

Hard to keep track of them

This truly is unprecedented, at least since the era of the Dixiecrats.

"Yet another group of Republicans -- this time people who worked in the George W. Bush administration -- have formed a super PAC in order to defeat a president of their own party. Never in my lifetime have I seen such a concerted (and well-financed) effort to beat an incumbent president from your own party. The Alumni for Biden super PAC now joins all the other GOP groups working hard to defeat Donald Trump this November. The head of the new group summed up why they felt a need to act: '[The Republican Party has] morphed into a cult of personality that little resembles the Party of Lincoln and Reagan.' There are so many of these groups springing up that it's getting hard to keep track of them all, in fact."

An astonishing public relations win

We have to admit, we did not like this slogan when it appeared, because we felt it took too long to explain and was too easy to falsely demonize by the other side. It appears, however, that we were wrong, so we offer this up as a mea culpa.

"A recent poll asked -- for the first time -- what the public thought the slogan 'defund the police' meant. Despite the efforts of Republicans to portray this in as negative a light as possible, only 18 percent of the people thought it meant 'get rid of police.' A whopping 77 percent correctly understood that it stands for 'change the way the police operate.' Even among conservatives, only 27 percent thought it meant 'get rid of police.' Over and over again throughout this civil rights summer, the Black Lives Matter movement has seen record levels of support for their goals. And their introduction of the 'defund the police' slogan seems to have worked precisely as they intended."

George Washington just wasn't that stupid, sorry

And finally, a conservative talking point is exposed for its stupidity in the best way possible. Some have been using the "freedom" and "liberty" argument against the wearing of masks to fight the pandemic, secure in their knowledge that the Founding Fathers would have agreed with their manly display of freedom from tyranny. However, this is incorrect. A recent Salon article provided the proof:

During the American Revolutionary War, health was at the forefront of General George Washington's priorities. One of his first requests from Congress as commander-in-chief was to establish a Medical Department for the Continental Army. After smallpox contributed to defeat at Quebec and stories circulated that the British deliberately spread the disease to weaken revolutionary soldiers and sympathizers, Washington mandated all non-immune and future Continental Army soldiers be inoculated. His decision was controversial because inoculation was still outlawed in some states. In her book Pox Americana, Elizabeth Fenn described this initiative as the "first large-scale, state-sponsored immunization campaign in American history" which historians consistently hail as one of Washington's most significant strategic victories. He saw strength in health and used government resources to intervene in health measures for the common good.

Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
Follow Chris on Twitter: ChrisWeigant
Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com
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ChrisWeigant Jul 10 OP
Ms. Toad Jul 10 #1

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Fri Jul 10, 2020, 09:23 PM

1. 71,787 new cases today. n/t

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