HomeLatest ThreadsGreatest ThreadsForums & GroupsMy SubscriptionsMy Posts
DU Home » Latest Threads » Forums & Groups » Main » Democratic Primaries (Forum) » Friday Talking Points -- ...
Undecided 48%
Joe Biden38%
Bernie Sanders14%

Fri Mar 13, 2020, 08:21 PM


Friday Talking Points -- The Weird Turn Pro

{Program Note for DemocraticUnderground.com readers:
This is a weekly roundup column of what is going on in the political world. For the duration of the 2020 campaign, I've been instructed to post it under the "Democratic Primaries" category rather than the "General Discussion" category, whenever the primary race is discussed. This discussion may be a large part of the column, or a very small part. Just wanted to clarify this up front, to avoid any objections that most of the post is "off topic."}

In a surreal bit of coincidence this week, America saw a simultaneous broadcast of President Trump stumbling and lying his way through a primetime Oval Office address, while on another channel former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin danced around in a frilly pink bear costume while rapping "Baby Got Back," which contains the memorable line: "I like big butts and I cannot lie...." Signs of the impending apocalypse? You be the judge. What flashed through our mind was the old quote from Hunter S. Thompson: "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." Or, as we might put it (with a fake Sarah Palin accent): "How's that 'stable genius' stuff workin' out for ya now?"

Yes, that's the type of week it was. The stock market went completely crazy, with wild swings up and down that mostly added up to it sinking like a rock. Before this week, trading had only ever been halted by the "circuit breaker" now built in to it (which is only triggered if the market loses seven percent or more in a single day) once previously, back in the 1990s. This week, it happened again -- twice. The market dropped by more points in one day than it ever had before, and then a few days later it blew through that record and dropped over 2,300 points. That was immediately after Trump addressed the nation (and Palin gyrated on stage).

So, America, the question now is: can we take much more of this Trumpian "winning"? Donald Trump keeps flailing about in an effort to make the coronavirus go away, but the problem is that you can't just insult it on Twitter or make up lies about it and everyone's going to forget about it. That's not going to work, as we've already seen.

Trump, of course, is only concerned with how this affects Trump. He is setting the worst possible example, since he's now been in contact with at least two people who later tested positive and yet Trump not only refuses to self-quarantine, he gave a press conference today where he made a point of shaking everyone's hand as they came up to the podium. One executive tried to get him to "bump elbows" instead, but that was after Trump had already shaken the guy's hand once. Trump has also refused to be tested for the coronavirus so far, and didn't exactly instill confidence when asked about it directly. There were lots of doctors in the White House, he responded, and he'd probably get tested at some unspecified future point once they worked it all into the scheduling. In other words: the most powerful person in the country, with a full staff of multiple doctors tasked only with monitoring the president's health cannot get tested right away. That sure sends a message to everyone else, who doesn't have a full medical staff at their beck and call, on how long it'll likely be before they'll be able to get tested.

But it's not just tone-deafness, it's out-and-out lies coming from Trump. Wednesday, while reading a speech off a TelePrompTer -- not ad-libbing in any way -- Trump said the following, to explain his new travel ban on Europe (except for the two countries where he owns golf courses, of course):

To keep new cases from entering our shores, we will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days. The new rules will go into effect Friday at midnight. These restrictions will be adjusted subject to conditions on the ground. There will be exemptions for Americans who have undergone appropriate screenings and these prohibitions will not only apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo, but various other things as we get approval. Anything coming from Europe to the United States is what we are discussing.

As Salon snidely put it: "The White House said the president 'misspoke' when he read the prepared statement from his TelePrompTer verbatim." Trump later had to walk this back himself, on Twitter:

Please remember, very important for all countries & businesses to know that trade will in no way be affected by the 30-day restriction on travel from Europe. The restriction stops people not goods.

No wonder Wall Street panicked. Trump obviously doesn't have a clue about what to do next or even what he's attempting to do right now. Trump also promised: "Earlier this week I met with the leaders of health insurance industry who have agreed to waive all co-payments for coronavirus treatments, extend insurance coverage to these treatments and to prevent surprise medical billing." This was also a lie. The insurance companies quickly pointed out that they had agreed to cover coronavirus testing, but not actual treatment. As Bernie Sanders has been pointing out for quite a while now, health insurance that doesn't cover the cost of being treated for a pandemic is completely worthless. Medicare For All isn't sounding like such a bad idea anymore, to put it bluntly.

During today's press conference, Trump also simultaneously tried to blame the Obama administration for Trump's poor response to date (spoiler: Trump is laughably wrong about this), while expressing astonishment that the Trump administration had eliminated a White House position for someone to prepare for pandemics, way back in 2018. Trump, of course, had nothing to do with it, according to Trump, and this was apparently the first he had heard of it. That shows how hopelessly out of touch Trump is on the subject of preparedness, obviously.

To date, the response to the coronavirus crisis has been haphazard, at best. Since there has been zero leadership from the White House, private entities have been the ones making the tough decisions. One professional sports league after another has announced cancellations of events, games, and even whole seasons. The entertainment industry is also shuttering its doors, one by one. Broadway went dark. Theme parks are closing. Movies delay their releases. Shows are no longer taped "before a live audience." Again, since the federal government is providing absolutely no guidance, state and local governments have stepped in to announce bans on gatherings of crowds and cancellation of school terms. But again, this has all been rather random, since nobody is at the helm of the response efforts. The vacuum of leadership becomes more obvious each and every day.

Throughout the whole crisis, the one constant is that the entire federal government's medical apparatus seems to have learned one valuable lesson: always stroke Trump's ego as much as possible -- fit it into every other sentence, if you can. The fawning praise heaped upon Trump by people who really should know better smacks of a North Korean-style cult of personality more than anything else. The Dear Leader can't possibly be wrong about anything, even when he is. When in doubt, praise his "tremendous leadership," just for good measure. And, of course, shake his hand when he offers it, even though he's had contact with two infected people in the last few days.

Of course, the GOP being the GOP, Trump's not the only one out there spouting nonsense. Matt Bevin, who was recently got kicked out of the governor's office by the good people of Kentucky, tweeted:


Chicken Little has just confirmed that the sky IS indeed falling...

Everyone is advised to take cover immediately and to bring lots of toilet paper with them when they do so...

The Kentucky Democratic Party tweeted right back at him:

Area unemployed man logs on to Twitter.

There's also a new blame game coming from the top down as well, and that is to use the label "the Chinese virus" or "the Wuhan virus." In Trump's primetime speech he called it a "foreign virus." We have no idea why they're even attempting to do this, unless it just feeds into the rampant xenophobia Trump loves to stir up. Today, we saw two headlines right next to each other on Politico -- "Trump Aides Pound On China. Health Experts Say: Please Stop." and "Chinese Businessman To Donate 500,000 Test Kits And 1 Million Masks To The U.S." In other words, while Trump is desperately trying to put all possible blame on China, one of their citizens is doing more for the American public than the president of the United States has yet managed to do. The going is definitely getting weird, folks.

One other story that hasn't gotten much attention yet is downright bizarre. From Reuters came the following jaw-dropper:

The White House has ordered federal health officials to treat top-level coronavirus meetings as classified, an unusual step that has restricted information and hampered the U.S. government's response to the contagion, according to four Trump administration officials.

The officials said that dozens of classified discussions about such topics as the scope of infections, quarantines and travel restrictions have been held since mid-January in a high-security meeting room at the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), a key player in the fight against the coronavirus.

Staffers without security clearances, including government experts, were excluded from the interagency meetings, which included video conference calls, the sources said.

"We had some very critical people who did not have security clearances who could not go," one official said. "These should not be classified meetings. It was unnecessary."

The sources said the National Security Council (NSC), which advises the president on security issues, ordered the classification. "This came directly from the White House," one official said.

So much for transparency. Trump probably classified these meetings so America wouldn't have to learn how woefully unprepared he was for this crisis, and how Trump and his gang of merry men and women absolutely squandered weeks and weeks and are only now even beginning to ramp up the response we really should have seen from the very start. But America can take solace from the fact that Sarah Palin now knows all the words to "Baby Got Back," we suppose. The weird have indeed turned pro.

You may have never heard her name before, and you may have missed this in the news, but one Democratic member of the House of Representatives more than earned her salary this week. She accomplished an amazing feat, which was summed up in a headline from the Arizona Republic: "How Rep. Katie Porter, at a coronavirus hearing, may have saved your life." George Takei weighed in, too, on Twitter: "Katie Porter is the hero we need. She is astonishing here."

So what did she do that was so astonishing? Here's how the Washington Post reported it (apologies for the length of the excerpt, but it really is worth reading in full):

Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) did the math.

Like a host of The Price Is Right, Porter asked a Department of Health and Human Services official to guess what it would cost for an uninsured American to receive a coronavirus test, itemizing everything from the initial flu test to the expensive emergency room visit. She tallied up the total cost on a whiteboard: an estimated $1,331 out of pocket.

She turned to Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and quickly transformed her demeanor from an amiable game-show host into a formidable principal doling out discipline.

"Doctor Redfield," she asked, "do you want to know who has the coronavirus and who doesn't? Not just rich people, but everybody who might have the virus?"

It was the beginning of a relentless line of questioning from Porter that, in just five minutes, would pry a promise out of Redfield to ensure that coronavirus testing would be free for all Americans. The stunning exchange between the doctor and lawmaker, during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing, led many to credit Porter with potentially saving lives amid the federal government's uneven response to the pandemic, calling her "brilliant" and a "hero."

"How many lives did Katie Porter save today using a whiteboard, a bull---- detector, and an ability to retain focus?" television producer Hart Hanson wrote on Twitter, linking to a video of Porter's questioning that has since been viewed nearly 20 million times.

. . .

Porter was additionally worried about a financial barrier: that uninsured or underinsured Americans would forgo seeking testing out of fear of the medical costs.

In five minutes, Porter sought to dismantle that barrier altogether.

She began grilling Redfield by pointing to a federal statute that gives the CDC director the power to "authorize payment for the care and treatment of patients subject to medical examination, quarantine, isolation, and conditional release." The existing statute, Porter argued, meant that the federal government should be able to pay for everyone's coronavirus tests without needing any new legislation.

"Doctor Redfield, will you commit the CDC right now to using that existing authority to pay for diagnostic testing free to every American, regardless of insurance?" she asked.

"Well," he replied, "I can say we're going to do everything to make sure everybody can get the care they -- "

Porter interrupted him: "Nope, not good enough. Reclaiming my time."

She asked him the same question again, this time more sternly, more impatiently.

"What I'm going to say is," Redfield responded, "I'm going to review it in detail with the CDC and the department."

"No," Porter shot back. And again: "I'm reclaiming my time."

At that point, Porter said she and two colleagues had already sent a letter to HHS seeking responses by Wednesday about how the agency planned to tackle insurance issues with coronavirus testing -- and the agency had already blown that deadline. Now, she said, he still wasn't giving an answer.

So she asked Redfield a third time: "Will you commit to invoking your existing authority under 42 CFR 71.30 to provide coronavirus testing for every American regardless of insurance coverage?"

"What I was trying to say," Redfield tried again, "is that CDC is working with HHS now to see how we operationalize that."

Disappointment flushed over Porter's face, as she said he hoped that response would "weigh heavily" on him.

"Doctor Redfield," she said, "you don't need to do any work to 'operationalize.' You need to make a commitment to the American people so they come in to get tested. You can operationalize the payment structure tomorrow."

And with that, the doctor waved a white flag.

"I think you're an excellent questioner," he said, "so my answer is yes."

"Excellent," Porter responded. "Everybody in America hear that? You are eligible to go get tested for coronavirus and have that covered regardless of insurance."

Now, this has not become reality quite yet, of course. But Porter forced a solemn promise from the federal government to pay for coronavirus testing for anyone regardless of whether they have insurance or not. And, as she later pointed out:

The CDC director made that commitment today under oath. He was sworn in at the start of that hearing, and my job as a Congress member is to ask those tough questions and to extract those promises. That was a promise he made to the American people, and I intend to hold him to it.

As we said, Representative Porter more than earned her salary this week, since this is the type of thing we should expect from our elected officials. If she does succeed in holding the government to this promise, she may save lives as a direct result. A lot of lives. That's pretty good for a five-minute question period, we have to admit.

For demanding an answer and refusing to traffic in gobbledygook, Representative Katie Porter was easily the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week. While Republicans are busy showering Trump with unearned praise for his "leadership," people like Porter are the ones who are actually forcing the issues that Trump and his Keystone Kops haven't gotten around to yet. For doing so, we heartily thank her for a job well done.

[Congratulate Representative Katie Porter on her House contact page, to let her know you appreciate her efforts.]

For the second Tuesday in a row, Bernie Sanders disappointed millions of his supporters by not doing nearly well enough in the primaries. Sanders lost Michigan to Joe Biden, which may be the beginning of the end of his campaign. He seems to realize this, and while he's sticking around at least until the next round of primaries next week (mostly so he gets to debate Joe Biden one-on-one), he knows the end is in sight for his chances of winning the Democratic nomination for president. Which, as we said, disappoints many Democrats out there.

Oh, that brings up a related matter, because the Northern Mariana Islands are voting tomorrow. So we'll just stick in our prediction here, but sadly for Sanders we are going to bet that Joe Biden wins this far-flung primary, too.

[Contact Senator Bernie Sanders on his Senate contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.]

Volume 565 (3/13/20)

We are pre-empting our talking points this week in order to bring you a partial timeline of what President Trump has been saying about the coronavirus crisis over the past few months. This is only a partial list, cribbed from a much more extensive one which ran in the Washington Post this week. But it's representative of Trump's thinking, and it is really all any Democrat needs to create their own talking points to highlight Trump's head-in-the-sand thinking and growing desperation about "the numbers."

From the start, Trump begins patting himself on the back, which he continues to do with each and every statement. In his mind, instituting a travel ban from China completely solved the problem, and therefore we should all just stop talking about it. After we all praise his leadership, of course.

Trump is obsessed with the number of coronavirus cases in America and the number of deaths. Unfortunately for him, these numbers did not quickly go down "to zero," but continue to climb daily. As of this week, he's stopped talking about the number of cases altogether, because it is now in the thousands. Which he doesn't want to admit, of course, so he's now only counting deaths, since that number is a lot lower.

At one point, Trump devotes some happy talk to the stock market. The day he tweeted this, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 28,992. The next day it was down over 1,000 points, to 27,912. Yesterday, it closed at 21,200, after the worst one-day point drop in history.

To sum up (pun intended), the numbers are not good for Trump no matter how hard he tries to make them sound rosy. We wrote yesterday about the stark difference between all of Trump's happy talk and how a Democratic president would be responding right now. Because now that the crisis is upon us, we can all see for ourselves how woefully inadequate the current president is. In times of trouble, the only thing on his mind is making himself look good. That's it. That's his only real concern. Not the deaths, not the sickness, not the widespread disruption to the economy and society, but making sure everyone is patting him on the back sufficiently enough for his gargantuan ego. Don't believe me? Here is how our Dear Leader has reacted to this crisis from the beginning, in his own words:

Jan. 30:

"We think we have it very well under control. We have very little problem in this country at this moment -- five. And those people are all recuperating successfully. But we're working very closely with China and other countries, and we think it's going to have a very good ending for it. So that I can assure you."

Feb. 2:

"Well, we pretty much shut it down coming in from China.... We can't have thousands of people coming in who may have this problem, the coronavirus. So we're gonna see what happens, but we did shut it down, yes."

Feb. 10:

"I think the virus is going to be -- it's going to be fine."

Feb. 14:

"We have a very small number of people in the country, right now, with it. It's like around 12. Many of them are getting better. Some are fully recovered already. So we're in very good shape."

Feb. 24:

"The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA.... Stock Market starting to look very good to me!"

Feb. 25:

"You may ask about the coronavirus, which is very well under control in our country. We have very few people with it, and the people that have it are... getting better. They're all getting better.... As far as what we're doing with the new virus, I think that we're doing a great job."

Feb. 26:

"Because of all we've done, the risk to the American people remains very low.... When you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero. That's a pretty good job we've done."

Feb. 28:

"I think it's really going well. We did something very fortunate: we closed up to certain areas of the world very, very early -- far earlier than we were supposed to. I took a lot of heat for doing it. It turned out to be the right move, and we only have 15 people and they are getting better, and hopefully they're all better. There's one who is quite sick, but maybe he's gonna be fine."

Feb. 28:

"It's going to disappear. One day, it's like a miracle, it will disappear."

March 5:

"With approximately 100,000 CoronaVirus cases worldwide, and 3,280 deaths, the United States, because of quick action on closing our borders, has, as of now, only 129 cases (40 Americans brought in) and 11 deaths. We are working very hard to keep these numbers as low as possible!"

March 7:

"It came out of China, and we heard about it. And made a good move: We closed it down; we stopped it. Otherwise -- the head of CDC said last night that you would have thousands of more problems if we didn't shut it down very early. That was a very early shutdown, which is something we got right."

March 9:

"So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!"

March 10:

"As you know, it's about 600 cases, it's about 26 deaths, within our country. And had we not acted quickly, that number would have been substantially more."

March 12:

"It's going to go away.... The United States, because of what I did and what the administration did with China, we have 32 deaths at this point... when you look at the kind of numbers that you're seeing coming out of other countries, it's pretty amazing when you think of it."

For the record, there are now over 2,100 coronavirus cases in America, with 48 deaths. But by the time you read this, those numbers will likely be higher.

Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
Follow Chris on Twitter: ChrisWeigant
Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com
All-time award winners leaderboard, by rank

If I were to vote in a presidential
primary today, I would vote for:

0 replies, 268 views

Reply to this thread

Back to top Alert abuse

Reply to this thread