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Member since: Tue Jun 24, 2008, 02:34 PM
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Friday Talking Points -- The Reclosing Begins

America, led by President Donald Trump and (mostly) Republican governors across the country, launched a grand experiment a few months back. Rather than following guidelines and milestones recommended by top epidemiologists, each state would reopen its economy as it saw fit. If your governor felt comfortable enough with the state of things, then the doors would be thrown open. This all started just before Memorial Day weekend, when Trump decided he was bored with the pandemic. And now it's becoming pretty obvious that this experiment has failed, and failed badly. And tens of thousands of Americans are paying a very steep price for this exercise in unfounded optimism.

Nationally, new cases have spiked up to around 40,000 per day. That is far above where those numbers were back in February and March, the two worst months of the first wave of the pandemic. Individual states are being hit very hard, and I.C.U. hospital beds are filling up fast. It's gotten so bad that two of Trump's staunchest GOP governor buddies have now gone beyond just "pausing" the reopening schedule and are now moving backwards:

A pair of GOP governors on Friday moved to impose new mitigation measures in their states amid record numbers of new coronavirus infections, with both Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ordering bars closed and Texas placing new restrictions on other businesses the governor said were linked to the virus's resurgence.

. . .

That both governors -- who are close allies of President Donald Trump and were criticized for resisting calls to lock down their states in the pandemic's early days -- have not only pressed pause on reopening but reimposed some restrictions, speaks to the severity of the outbreaks in two of the most populous states in the country.

. . .

The announcement came 24 hours after Abbott first ordered a pause on the state's reopening process, which began in May. The Texas governor on Thursday also halted elective surgeries in a handful of counties and backed down from an earlier directive that banned cities and counties from mandating residents wear face masks in public.

DeSantis, meanwhile, had indicated that he had no plans to move Florida into its next phase of reopening, while local hot spots weighed their own shutdowns and mask requirements. But the state added nearly 9,000 new cases Thursday, shattering its previous one-day record set only days earlier.

. . .

With their orders Friday, Abbott and DeSantis joined nearly a dozen other states that over the last week or so have begun to scale back reopening due to the new surge. On Thursday Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona, which is among those seeing the highest increase in new infections, announced that the state's reopening process would also be halted.

California may soon follow suit, with Gov. Gavin Newsom warning that the state is "prepared" to issue another stay-at-home order if necessary, though adding that "We don't intend to do that. We don't want to do that."

. . .

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Thursday followed his neighbor Abbott, announcing that he would not be lifting any further coronavirus-related restrictions the same day his state posted one of its largest single-day increases in new cases. Texas' other neighbor to the east, Louisiana, had already announced a four-week delay before moving into its next phase of reopening.

The governors of Utah, Michigan, Kansas, Idaho, Nevada, North Carolina and Delaware have also taken similar steps to freeze the current phase of reopening.

But freezing or pausing the reopening is really far too little. Think about it -- it's like a corollary to the Peter Principle (which states that employees in a big company will rise to their own level of incompetence). If reopening to (say) Phase 3 causes enormous spikes in the caseload, then "pausing" at Phase 3 merely locks in what's causing the spike. Only moving back to an earlier phase will even begin to fix the problem in any meaningful way, which is why Texas and Florida have now moved to do so.

Call it the start of "the great reclosing," after the "let's reopen way too early" experiment failed. And the entire thing was nothing short of reckless politics to please Donald Trump. In Arizona and Texas, the Republican legislature actually banned mayors from instituting stricter guidelines than the state (like mandating everyone wear masks, for instance). Because no dang librul mayor was going to stand in the way of the great reopening of the economy, of course. These actions, in hindsight, appear downright criminal.

Arizona is facing more per capita cases than recorded by any country in Europe or even by hard-hit Brazil. "Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, is recording as many as 2,000 cases a day, 'eclipsing the New York City boroughs even on their worst days,' warned a Wednesday brief by disease trackers at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, which observed, 'Arizona has lost control of the epidemic.'" . . .

"Physicians, public health experts, advocates and local officials say the crisis was predictable in Arizona, where local ordinances requiring masks were forbidden until Gov. Doug Ducey (R) reversed course last week. State leaders did not take the necessary precautions or model safe behavior... When forbearance was most required, as the state began to reopen despite continued community transmission, an abrupt and uniform approach -- without transparent benchmarks or latitude for stricken areas to hold back -- led large parts of the public to believe the pandemic was over.

"This week, Arizona reported not just a record single-day increase in new cases -- with Tuesday's tally reaching 3,591 -- but also record use of inpatient beds and ventilators for suspected and confirmed cases. Public health experts warn that hospitals could be stretched so thin they may have to begin triaging patients by mid-July.... Still, resistance to health precautions remains pronounced. At an anti-mask rally Wednesday, a member of the Scottsdale City Council, Republican Guy Phillips, shouted the dying words of George Floyd -- 'I can't breathe' -- before ripping off his mask....

Ducey didn't just block local governments from imposing restrictions to protect their own residents. His administration has threatened to cut off state funding in retaliation for such regulations. "The biggest challenge has been Governor Ducey tying the hands of mayors and county health departments," said Regina Romero, the Democratic mayor of Tucson, who said she weighed an emergency proclamation mandating masks in mid-March but was advised against it by her city attorney. "There's a real threat with money involved."

The Trump White House is reluctantly beginning to admit to this failure, although not explicitly. Vice President Mike Pence and Larry Kudlow are still out there trying to get everyone to see the massive failure through some awfully rosy-tinted glasses, even as the numbers continue to worsen. But today, for the first time in weeks, the administration's coronavirus task force held a press briefing. Notably, Donald Trump did not appear. The last time they held a briefing America only (!) had one million cases and 50,000 deaths. Both numbers have more than doubled since.

The American people are smarter than Mike Pence, and see things quite differently:

A majority of Americans, 56 percent, believe the country is moving too quickly to reopen, while only 15 percent say it's moving too slowly, according to a new ABC-Ipsos poll. Seventy-six percent of Americans say they're worried about catching the virus, seven percent more than just two weeks ago.

President Trump, perhaps after being informed that the optics weren't exactly great, just cancelled a weekend golf trip to New Jersey. This, after another whole week of bad optics for Trump, which started with Trump's Tulsa campaign rally flopping on an epic scale (the fire marshal reported that fewer than one-third of the seats in the arena were filled). This sent Trump into yet another tantrum, and his "walk of shame" from Marine Corps One was downright priceless.

Donald Trump's re-election campaign strategy seems now to consist of re-enacting the core scene from Fight Club. No problem is so small that Trump can't haul off and punch himself in the face over it, at this point. Everything he does seems to make him less appealing to the voters, almost as if by design.

Don't believe this? Well, while Republicans were all gleefully sneering at Joe Biden because he misspoke and said "120 million" Americans had died in the pandemic, here is how Trump answered a softball question from the softest of interviewers, Fox News host Sean Hannity, at a townhall meeting this week. When asked what his top priorities for his second term would be, Trump responded with the following word salad:

Well one of the things that will be really great -- you know, the word experience is still good. I always say talent is more important than experience. I've always said that. But the word experience is a very important word. It's a very important meaning. I never did this before, I never slept over in Washington. I was in Washington I think 17 times, all of a sudden I'm president of the United States, you know the story, I'm riding down Pennsylvania Avenue with our First Lady and I say, "This is great." But I didn't know very many people in Washington, it wasn't my thing. I was from Manhattan, from New York. Now I know everybody. And I have great people in the administration. You make some mistakes, like you know, an idiot like Bolton, all he wanted to do is drop bombs on everybody. You don't have to drop bombs on everybody. You don't have to kill people.

So... um... Trump's second term will be all about... not dropping bombs on people? Not killing people? Actually, that last one would be an improvement over the great reopening experiment that just failed, when you think about it. Even so, that's an astoundingly irrelevant rant instead of even mentioning one single item that Trump would like to see accomplished in a second term. In other words, Trump hauls off and punches himself in the face, once again.

On the coronavirus pandemic, Trump is trying to convince everyone that it's all in the past and "the plague" (as he likes to call it) is over and done with. Just hide your heads in the sand, people, and everything will work out fine! The Trump administration announced this week that they're going to shut down the drive-through testing sites they've been running in Texas, right when the caseload in Texas is going through the roof. Nothin' to see here, folks, move along!

Trump whacked himself again today by filing a court brief arguing for the complete destruction of the Affordable Care Act. Because right in the middle of a pandemic is obviously the perfect time to take millions of families' health insurance away! What could possibly go wrong with that? Trump would replace Obamacare with... well, nobody knows, because he still won't say. Republicans in Congress have had over a decade to come with a plan -- any plan -- to replace Obamacare, and they've still got diddly-squat to show for it. Biden helpfully pointed out that if Obamacare is destroyed, then insurance companies would then be free to bar people with pre-existing conditions from getting insurance -- and that having COVID-19 would indeed be one of those pre-existing conditions:

Those survivors, having struggled and won the fight of their lives, would have their peace of mind stolen away at the moment they need it most. They would live their lives caught in a vise between Donald Trump's twin legacies: his failure to protect the American people from the coronavirus, and his heartless crusade to take health-care protections away from American families.

Trump's take on it resembles all those things Republicans are now saying about Biden ("He can't string two sentences together" ): "What we want to do is terminate it and give health care. We'll have great health care, including pre-existing conditions." That's Trump's plan, in its entirety. And Republicans in Congress certainly don't have anything better (although they at least can form proper English sentences when explaining that they've got nothing at all to offer).

Need more proof? Here's Trump showing that empathy he's so famous for, right after stating that he had urged his people to "slow down" all the testing: "They test and they test. We had tests that people don't know what's going on. We got tests. We got another one over here, the young man's 10 years old. He's got the sniffles. He'll recover in about 15 minutes. That's the case." Boy, that'll get a whole bunch of suburban moms to vote for you, right? Not caring in the slightest about a 10-year-old catching coronavirus is just another instance of Trump hauling off and smacking his own face in front of the voters.

Trump also this week proved that -- six months in and counting -- he still doesn't even understand why it's called "COVID-19." No, really. He's been briefed probably hundreds of times, and he couldn't even retain this one fact from any of the briefings. As usual, he tried to put himself at one remove from this ignorance, but it's pretty obvious exactly who is clueless here: "COVID-19, COVID, I said what's the 19? COVID-19, some people can't explain the 19."

Meanwhile, the European Union is considering enacting a ban on people travelling from the United States, since we obviously are dangerously incompetent when it comes to battling a pandemic. Experts in America seem to agree:

But Italy announced just 264 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday -- the same day that the United States reported nearly 32,000. The European nation opened its restaurants and stores a month ago, albeit under new, national safety measures, even as U.S. states wrestled with inconsistent, hasty reopening efforts that have been blamed for new virus spikes. And Italy's outbreak has dramatically ebbed from its mid-March peak, while America's new per capita cases remain on par with Italy's worst day -- and show signs of rising further, with record hospitalizations in states like Arizona, Florida and Texas last week.

"I think there are going to be states in our country that can replicate Italy," said Ashish Jha, head of Harvard's Global Health Institute, noting that New York has made its own dramatic strides in containing the virus.

"But I would rather spend this summer in Rome with my family than in Phoenix."

That's if they let you in, of course.

Trump's biggest skill, of course, is distraction. He's always been able to get everyone talking about some hot-button issue to the exclusion of all else, but this doesn't seem to be working very well for him right now. He tried to start a big fight by calling the virus the "Kung Flu," and just today he signed an executive order designed to show he's sticking up for Confederate statues, but neither one seems likely to get much traction while the pandemic comes roaring back. The American public is finally beginning to see through the schtick, one would like to hope.

Paul Waldman of the Washington Post was the most eloquent this week in expressing outrage at Trump:

In a propaganda effort that can only be described as obscene, the Trump administration is trying to convince us not only that the pandemic is all but behind us, but also that its spectacularly incompetent response has been a great triumph.

This will without a doubt go down as one of the worst presidential failures in American history. And we can see now that it had three distinct (if overlapping) phases.

The first was the denial phase, in which President Trump dismissed the danger from the virus and did almost nothing to prepare for its arrival. The second was the mismanagement phase, in which his administration utterly failed to control the virus as it swept across the country.

The third was the polarization phase, in which, for his own vulgar political reasons, Trump attacked Democratic governors trying to contain the virus, discouraged social distancing and mask-wearing, and quite intentionally created an atmosphere in which loud refusal to take the measures that we know reduce the spread of infection is how you prove you're a loyal Republican.

. . .

This pandemic is an era-defining catastrophe, and it didn't have to be this way. It's almost impossible to imagine a president more ill-prepared, by virtue of experience and temperament and judgment, to handle it, and all our worst fears have come true. Don't let him or any of his lackeys tell you otherwise.

The more this goes on, the better Biden does in the polls, it is worth pointing out. A new poll put Biden up by the following margins in six battleground states: Arizona (up 7 points), Florida (up 6), Michigan (up 11), North Carolina (up 9), Pennsylvania (up 10), Wisconsin (up 11). The same poll put Biden up a whopping 14 points over Trump nationwide, 50 percent to 36 percent.

Things have gotten so bad even Carly Fiorina is now saying she'll vote for Biden:

As citizens, our vote is more than a check on a box. You know, it's a statement about where we want to go, and I think what we need now actually is real leadership that can unify the country. I am encouraged that Joe Biden is a person of humility and empathy and character. I think he's demonstrated that through his life. And I think we need humility and empathy everywhere in public life right now. And I think character counts.

This may be the first time ever that we find we agree wholeheartedly with Carly Fiorina. But what can you really expect when Trump's out there giving himself black eyes on a daily basis?

Devin Nunes, Republican snowflake extraordinaire, lost a court case against the spoof "Devin Nunes' Cow" Twitter account this week, but we have no idea if the imaginary cow is a Democrat or not, so we can't technically give it an award. Heh.

We increasingly find that a Republican group -- the Lincoln Project, which includes Kellyanne Conway's husband -- is deserving of praise, for their lighting-fast ad team that slams Trump immediately after he punches himself in the face. They had two ads out this week in this vein, "Shrinking" (which makes merry fun of Trump's tiny Tulsa crowd size, and includes the line: "You've probably heard this before, but it was smaller than we expected" ), and "Flag of Treason" (which more seriously took on Trump's embrace of the Confederate flag and all its supporters). You know, if we were a bazillionaire Democrat we'd certainly consider throwing $100 million or so at this group so they can run these ads nationwide on a regular basis. [Paging Mike Bloomberg... paging Mike Bloomberg....]

Several progressive candidates seem to have won their primaries this week, but we're going to have to wait to hand out awards to them because the results won't be final for a while yet. This should be a note of caution to everyone, by the way, since with all the mail-in ballots that will have to be processed, there's a very good chance that we aren't going to know the outcome of the presidential race on Election Day this year. Be warned, everyone.

But this week we'd like to give the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award to House Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, who represents (but cannot cast a vote for) Washington, D.C. Today, the House made history by passing a D.C. statehood bill -- the first such legislation to ever pass either house of Congress. D.C. statehood has long been a festering issue (they even use license plates with "No taxation without representation" prominently displayed on them), but has never had the support needed. After watching Trump supercede the city government during the recent protests, though, Democrats got on board in a big way.

Washington has 700,000 citizens living in it who have no vote in Congress at all, because they are part of no state. The smallest state (population-wise) is Wyoming, with around 500,000 people, so D.C.'s got more than enough people to qualify for statehood. The vote was a party-line one, with zero Republicans voting against it and all but one Democrat voting for it. Republicans struggled to explain their opposition, as Speaker Nancy Pelosi pointed out:

But Democrats bristled at the GOP's rationale for opposition. "That shouldn't be how we have enfranchisement in our country -- what's the nature of our vote?" Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters. "They talk about the 'toos' -- too Black, too Democrat, whatever."

"The fact is people in the District of Columbia pay taxes, fight our wars, risk their lives for our democracy and yet, in this state they have no say, they have no vote in the House or Senate about whether we go to war and how those taxes are exacted," Pelosi continued.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has vowed he won't take up the bill in the GOP-controlled Senate, even going so far as to compare D.C. statehood to "full-bore socialism."

Other Republicans have disparaged the character of Americans living in the nation's capital.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) took to the Senate floor on Thursday to argue that Wyoming -- despite its smaller population of 500,000 people -- deserved its voting rights because it is a "working class state" rather than a haven for lobbyists and the "bureaucracy" of federal workers.

This is just laughable, and Pete Buttigieg led the laughter, tweeting in response to Cotton's idiocy: "Huh? Since when do we assign democratic rights based on profession? And what makes a waiter, teacher, or construction worker who lives in DC less deserving than a miner, logger, or construction worker in Wyoming? Perhaps @TomCottonAR would like to define 'well-rounded'...."

Obviously, D.C. is not going to become the 51st state until Democrats retake control of the Senate, but that might not be that far off. For pushing this issue tirelessly (the same bill has been filed "for decades" ), Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton was easily our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week. D.C. statehood just got one very big step closer to becoming reality, and she deserves the lion's share of the credit for making it happen now.

[Congratulate House Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton on her official contact page, to let her know you appreciate her efforts.]

Our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week is the flip side of our MIDOTW this week. Buried in the article on the D.C. statehood vote was the following:

Nearly every Democrat who voted against the 1993 bill voted in favor on Friday: [Steny] Hoyer, Reps. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, David Price of North Carolina and Jim Cooper of Tennessee. Only Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota remained opposed.

What the...? What possible reason could Peterson have had?

For being the lone Democrat to vote against this historic measure, Collin Peterson is easily our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week. 'Nuff said.

[Contact Representative Collin Peterson on his House contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.]

Volume 580 (6/26/20)

At times, we are taken to task by our readers for writing long-winded paragraphs rather than actual "talking point" soundbites. In our defense, we feel that sometimes the final zinger in these paragraphs needs a buildup and some context to work most effectively.

But we do largely concede the point. Shorter is better when coming up with political slogans. So this week we're going to keep things brutally short by only offering up bumpersticker slogans for the 2020 campaign. Bumpersticker slogans have to be short, to be readable by other drivers, of course.

So here are our seven favorite short-but-sweet slogans for the 2020 campaign. We have to admit that the first two we first heard at a Netroots Nation conference and the final one actually comes from Joe Biden's campaign (and is even better than what we proposed long before Biden emerged as the nominee). We mention this up front because we're going to use the formatting we usually use to indicate someone else's words this week to more-prominently display these short slogans (and make them look more like an actual bumpersticker).

We also would heartily encourage any other suggestions for Biden or anti-Trump bumperstickers. This is our current list, but they could certainly be improved upon, so please don't hesitate to suggest your own in the comments!

Rhyme No. 1

Short, sweet, to the point. And it rhymes! What more could a bumpersticker slogan want?


Rhyme No. 2

Let's not forget about those down-ballot races, either. Fortunately, we've got another snappy rhyme for this:


Contrast No. 1

The next two lay out a real contrast, and a real choice. There are plenty of others we could have used in this vein, but these two seemed the best for the current moment.

BIDEN 2020

Contrast No. 2

An especially pertinent case to make, given the circumstances.

BIDEN 2020

The heart of the matter

Hit Trump where he's weakest. After all, he's out there hitting himself in the face on this particular issue, so why not join in?

BIDEN 2020

Just because we couldn't resist...

This one comes with an extra order of snark, because he so richly deserves it.


Biden's winning slogan (to date)

Finally, we have the one from Team Biden. As mentioned, almost a year ago we wrote a column suggesting that the ultimate slogan to use to take on Trump would be: "Do we really want another four years of this?!?" At the time, we pointed out that although generic, it would doubtlessly come in handy no matter what antics Trump was up to at the time. The overwhelming complaint most voters have with Donald Trump is that he is just so exhausting to keep track of. Not a week goes by without multiple crises and explosions and eruptions from the Oval Office. There's always something to be outraged about, because the hits just never stop coming with Trump.

But Team Biden has gone a giant step further, by boiling this entire sentiment down to just one word. So we tip our wordsmithing hat to them, because this is far better than our 9-word effort. What's the biggest motivating factor for voters in 2020?


Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
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Friday Talking Points -- Anarcho-Syndicalists Unite!

As time goes by, it is looking more and more like the television show Trump: The Reality-Show President is just not going to be renewed for a fifth season. After all, Fox News just released a poll showing Donald Trump a whopping 12 points behind Joe Biden. That's tough news from your sponsoring network, obviously. When CNN released an earlier poll showing Trump down 14 points, he had his lawyer try to intimidate the network into retracting the poll. It didn't work, of course. So what will Trump's lawyer now have to say to Fox?

It's no surprise that Trump: The Reality-Show President is on the brink of cancellation. Its fourth season opened with a few plot twists designed to put pressure on Trump, and he hasn't exactly risen to the occasion. First, the writers had Congress impeach him, just to see what he'd do. Then they threw a pandemic at him, which he woefully mishandled for months before realizing the seriousness of the situation. This led to the collapse of the economy, as Trump floundered around. Trump began daily briefings which (if the polls are accurate) is precisely the time when the public began tuning out in a big way. With ratings down, the show's storyline turned to "unrest in the streets," which Trump has handled even worse than the coronavirus pandemic (if such a thing is even possible).

In a last, desperate move, the writers have decided it's time to rely on the classic hits, as Trump begins to hold campaign rallies once again. If you look down, you may spot a shark swimming beneath Fonzie's waterskis. Even adding Cousin Oliver isn't going to help, to use another television reference from ages past. The viewers have lost interest, and the advertising dollars have fled. Meaning we may seen the final episodes of Trump: The Reality-Show President very soon now. Maybe the writers will have one final plot twist where Trump resigns so he can be pardoned by Mike Pence? Stay tuned!

At this point it's hard not to be more than a little snarky about President Trump. He appears to be spinning wildly out of control, which will likely make tomorrow night's rally in Tulsa one for the ages. At this point, who knows what he's going to blurt out? Trump knows that John Bolton's book is going to hit the shelves early next week, and that he's already lost control of his own media narrative -- which was, incidentally, the one thing he actually knew how to dominate. So look for him to pour a whole bunch of gasoline on any number of fires tomorrow in Oklahoma.

Adding to Trump's woes was the Supreme Court, which rejected Trump's arguments twice in one week. In the first decision, Trump was denied in his fight to preserve employment discrimination against L.G.B.T. people. In the second, Trump was denied in his fight to make the lives of 800,000 dreamers (those covered by DACA) miserable. You'll note the common thread here, because Trump stomping all over minorities' hopes and dreams has been one of the consistencies of Trump's presidency. Trump was even actually forced to reschedule his Tulsa rally so as not to heap dishonor on Juneteenth. As we wrote yesterday, Trump is having a very bad week all around. The Supreme Court even iced the cake by refusing to take up the case against California's sanctuary laws, meaning yet another of Trump's actions against Latinos was stopped in its tracks.

What is truly astonishing (and what to look for in his rally, by the way) is Trump's absolute cluelessness when it comes to understanding why people have been protesting ever since George Floyd was brutally murdered. Trump even admitted to Sean Hannity this week that he hasn't even bothered to watch the whole video, complaining: "It was over eight minutes. Who could watch that?" Earlier on Fox News, Harris Faulkner specifically asked Trump what he thought the protesters even wanted to see happen (helpfully differentiating them as "not the looters and the rioters, we are intelligent enough to know the difference in our country" ). Trump's reply was stunning in its reality-denying: "I think you had protesters for different reasons, you had protesting also because they just didn't know," while claiming to have seen protesters who were asked why they were protesting who "weren't really able to say." Or to put it another way, Trump hasn't even yet grasped why people are out there in the streets, and when they explain it for him on camera, the words and thoughts are so frightening and foreign that Trump can't even understand them.

In other words, Happy Juneteenth from the president. Speaking of Juneteenth, in a different interview (with the Wall Street Journal), Trump took credit for popularizing Juneteenth, too, just in case there was a single black person left in America who had been thinking about voting for him: "I did something good: I made Juneteenth very famous. It's actually an important event, an important time. But nobody had ever heard of it." Trump said he had asked a bunch of people around him, but none of them had ever heard of Juneteenth before, and then tried to hammer the point home by asking a hapless aide who happened to be in the room with him. The aide replied that the White House issued a Juneteenth statement last year. Trump reacted in surprise: "Oh really? We put out a statement? The Trump White House put out a statement? OK. OK. Good."

In other presidential cluelessness news, Trump also claimed this week that scientists had "come up with the AIDS vaccine." This is, of course, not true -- no such vaccine exists. The Trump administration has now gone full-on head-in-the-sand on the coronavirus pandemic, and the official party line is now that the pandemic is over, the virus is going away "by itself," and everyone should just get back to work... and don't bother wearing one of those silly masks, either. Mike Pence seems to be leading the effort, all but begging governors to downplay the spikes that roughly half of the states are now experiencing, and writing a piece for the Wall Street Journal titled: "There Isn't a Coronavirus 'Second Wave'," which was then resoundingly ridiculed. It was also announced this week that the federal government has now stockpiled 63 million doses of hydroxychloroquine, which is useless to fight COVID-19. So we're all ready now just in case a massive malaria pandemic outbreak happens! Meanwhile, Trump is out there doing his part by insisting that people are now wearing masks "not as a preventative measure but as a way to signal disapproval of him." Because everything -- everything -- is always all about Donald J. Trump, obviously.

Twitter had some fun with this all-about-Trump theme, after Trump petulantly tweeted (after his second big loss was announced): "Do you get the impression that the Supreme Court doesn't like me?"

The reality, of course, is the exact opposite of how Trump sees it. He made mask-wearing or not-wearing a political statement, by refusing to even be seen in one (it's highly doubtful that he's ever even put one on). All of his worshipful followers then had to do the same, which reminded us of the "one shoe" scene from Monty Python's Life Of Brian -- "Let us, like Him, hold up one shoe and let the other be upon our foot, for this is His sign, that all who follow Him shall do likewise." Which is why we really don't expect to see a single mask being worn tomorrow night in Tulsa. Who would dare to blaspheme in such a way while standing in the presence of Trump?

In other Trump campaign news, Facebook and Twitter have now both yanked Trump ads. Apparently using Nazi symbols to whip up hate against your enemies (in this case, the mythological "Antifa" army occupying the streets of America) is beyond the pale for even Zuckerberg. Think that's overstating it? We don't:

Trump's reelection campaign posted content and ads that featured the red inverted triangle, which once marked political dissidents like Communists and Social Democrats, and a variation of which was used to label Jewish political prisoners.

The posts and ads were removed for violating Facebook's policy against organized hate, a company spokesperson confirmed Thursday afternoon, which "prohibits using a banned hate group's symbol to identify political prisoners without the context that condemns or discusses the symbol," he said.

The symbol appeared in Trump campaign ads condemning "dangerous MOBS of far-left groups" that it said are "DESTROYING our cities and rioting," according to The Washington Post, which first reported the use of the symbol.

In actual fact, (although the news media hasn't been focusing on it much) the people getting arrested threatening or carrying out violence at demonstrations all seem to be from right-wing groups, not left-wing groups.

Speaking of fanning the flames, it seems Fox News is flirting with incitement to riot these days -- that is, when they aren't blatantly manipulating video to scare the heck out of their target audience.

Republicans are getting rid of one stone cold racist in Congress next year (Steve King), but apparently they are going to replace him with at least one new racist GOP House member. Not exactly progress, folks.

One of the few remaining African-Americans serving in the Trump administration quit this week, writing in her resignation letter:

Mary Elizabeth Taylor, assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs, submitted her resignation Thursday. Taylor's five-paragraph resignation letter, obtained by The Washington Post, serves as an indictment of Trump's stewardship at a time of national unrest from one of the administration's highest-ranking African Americans and an aide who was viewed as loyal and effective in serving his presidency.

"Moments of upheaval can change you, shift the trajectory of your life, and mold your character. The President's comments and actions surrounding racial injustice and Black Americans cut sharply against my core values and convictions," Taylor wrote in her resignation letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. "I must follow the dictates of my conscience and resign as Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs."

The N.C.A.A. got a little more woke this week, as it announced a ban on championship games in Mississippi until it gets rid of its state flag (the only one left in America that still displays a Confederate symbol). Meanwhile, offensive statues continue to come down, even out West.

And finally, three stories to end on. The first is about the findings from an investigation of N.O.A.A. that "found the agency leadership violated its scientific integrity policy" in the whole "Sharpiegate" fiasco. Remember when Trump forced government scientists to lie and cover up because he was too frightened to admit he had tweeted out a mistake? Yeah, those were the days.

But this week we got two other Trump idiocies to laugh about, because there was "rampgate" and "drink-of-watergate." Both happened at Trump's graduation address to West Point. Trump -- once again, as this isn't the first time this has been caught on film -- apparently "has a drinking problem" (as that phrase was used in the movie Airplane). He can't seem to raise a glass of water to his lips successfully without using both hands to do so.

Even more bizarre was his tiny-steps-down-the-ramp walk, which was ridiculed so much that Trump felt the need to somehow explain why he looked like a doddering fool:

The ramp that I descended after my West Point Commencement speech was very long & steep, had no handrail and, most importantly, was very slippery. The last thing I was going to do is "fall" for the Fake News to have fun with. Final ten feet I ran down to level ground. Momentum!

Um, yeah... sure. That was it. Must have been.

Of course, being Trump, there's a tweet for that. Here he is castigating President Barack Obama for being too energetic on stairs: "The way President Obama runs down the stairs of Air Force 1, hopping & bobbing all the way, is so inelegant and unpresidential. Do not fall!" Obama, of course, never did fall in such a circumstance, because walking is not a problem for him. Even more hilarious was a video someone dug up showing Joe Biden (as vice president) literally running up the very same ramp at West Point.

And finally, we saved the funniest for last (although we couldn't resist throwing in that Life Of Brian reference as foreshadowing). Fox News essentially trolled itself this week, to everyone's amusement (including John Cleese's):

In a Friday segment, Fox tried to suggest there was trouble brewing between protesters in the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, a roughly six-block area of Seattle that demonstrators against police brutality and systemic injustice occupied last week.

The quote-unquote evidence of infighting came from a post on Reddit, supposedly written by someone within CHAZ, that read in part: "I thought we were an autonomous collective? An anarcho-syndicalist commune at the least. We should take turns to act as a sort of executive officer for the week."

The trouble is, the Reddit post was actually referencing a scene from the 1975 comedy classic Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

The scene shows two peasants, played by Monty Python's Terry Jones and Michael Palin, explaining their society to a befuddled King Arthur, played by Graham Chapman.

"We're an anarcho-syndicalist commune," Palin's character says. "We take it in turns to act as a sort of executive officer for the week. But all the decisions of that officer have to be ratified at a special biweekly meeting -- by a simple majority in the case of purely internal affairs, but by a two-thirds majority in the case of more major issues."

Cleese, in his reply, essentially farted in Trump's general direction. [Sorry, but we couldn't resist.]

This week in politics mostly revolved around John Bolton's book and the Supreme Court, which kind of pushed Democrats into the background. If we could, we'd give an award this week to a group of Republicans, because the Lincoln Project dropped two more ads this week, both attacking Trump on China. One even uses information revealed in Bolton's book, showing the Lincoln Project's media team is pretty much the quickest one in Washington. Both ads are brutal, the first pointing out all the sweetheart deals Ivanka Trump has had with China since Daddy became president.

The second ad is beyond brutal -- it can only be called devastating. Earlier this year, the Trump campaign seemed eager to use China as a political bludgeon against Joe Biden, but that's getting tougher and tougher to do, as the ad helpfully points out. Here's the most scathing line from the ad: "China beats him every time. No matter what he says, China's got his number. Trump even begged Chinese leader Xi to help him win re-election, like a dog." So they're not exactly pulling punches.

But since they're all Republicans, we can't give them the MIDOTW award. Oh, we should mention that there were two other new anti-Trump ads out this week, one from the Meidas Touch folks and one from the D.N.C., in case you'd like to watch a few more.

Instead, we're going to hand the MIDOTW to Nancy Pelosi, for simply not putting up with dangerous foolishness any more.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Tuesday moved to require all representatives to wear masks at committee hearings after a Republican lawmaker who flouted advice to wear a face covering tested positive for COVID-19.

Pelosi authorized the House Sergeant at Arms to ban any member who refuses to wear a mask from the chamber, according to The Washington Post. Nonetheless, the article noted that "there are holdouts: a small group of Republican representatives who have consistently declined to wear face coverings."

"This requirement will be enforced by the Sergeant at Arms and non-compliant members will be denied entry," a senior House aide told the outlet. "Ultimately, chairs will have the option of not recognizing members in committee proceedings that fail to comply with the mask requirement."

The move came days after Rep. Tom Rice, R-S.C., said he and two family members had tested positive for COVID-19 last week. CNN congressional reporter Manu Raju noted that Rice was not wearing a mask when he was on the House floor two weeks earlier.

"I'm socially distancing," Rice said at the time. "I'm staying six feet away from folks."

. . .

Lawmakers who refuse to wear a mask will be given the option of working remotely.

"Members always have the option to participate in committee proceedings virtually, including from their Washington, D.C. offices or their districts," the senior aide told The Post.

In case anyone is still unclear on which side of the political aisle is making a purely medical issue into a gigantic political bugaboo, the article has a few telling examples:

Several Republicans have decried face masks, which are recommended by every leading health authority and have been found to be effective at limiting the spread of the virus in multiple studies.

"It's not helping your health or anybody else's," Rep. Clay Higgins, R-La., claimed to CNN despite mounting evidence that masks prevent infections. "You're not stopping any sort of a virus. It's part of the dehumanization of the children of God. You're participating in it by wearing a mask."

Wait... what?!? Dehumanization? Wearing a mask? Really? Wouldn't that mean that wearing any clothes at all is also "part of the dehumanization of the children of God" too? We're confused....

Some weren't quite so theological in their objections, while trying (and failing) to acknowledge that science does indeed exist:

Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., also refused to wear a mask at the Capitol.

"There's just no need," he told CNN as he asserted his belief in "herd immunity."

But scientists have said that close to 70% of the population would have to be infected with the coronavirus, which along with a risk of death causes myriad post-infection health complications, in order to attain herd immunity. New York, which had the biggest outbreak in the world, reports that about 13% of its population has tested positive for coronavirus antibodies, meaning the world's biggest outbreak would have to grow more than five times larger to achieve herd immunity.

As we said, it's pretty easy to see which side is trying to politicize nonsense. What it basically comes down to is pretty easy to see: Donald Trump doesn't wear a mask, "for this is His sign, that all who follow Him shall do likewise."

Which is why we appreciate Nancy Pelosi for refusing to put up with dangerous idiocy in her House. She is in essence telling them: "Don't want to wear a mask? Then get an aide to explain Zoom to you, because that is the only way you'll be able to participate from now on. Deal with it." Well done, Madam Speaker. Well done.

[Congratulate Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on her official contact page, to let her know you appreciate her efforts.]

We have two Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week awards to hand out this week, sad to say.

The first goes to John Hickenlooper for a video clip which surfaced this week. Here's the story:

Former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper (D) apologized Monday for remarks he made in 2014 comparing elected officials to slaves being whipped aboard an "ancient slave ship."

The apology from Hickenlooper, who is running for U.S. Senate, came after Tay Anderson, a Denver school board member, circulated a video of his remarks on Twitter.

"Well, once that happens, then the schedulers, who really -- if I was to describe a scheduler, a political scheduler, imagine an ancient slave ship," the video shows Hickenlooper saying at an event, drawing laughs from some in the crowd.

He continued to describe the imaginary scene, making a whipping gesture with his hand as he spoke of "the guy with the whip, and you're rowing -- we elected officials are the ones that are rowing, and they have nothing but hard, often thankless things to do."

Anderson, who is the youngest African American ever elected to public office in Colorado, said in a tweet that Hickenlooper has "some explaining to do."

"Referencing my ancestors' pain of being brought over here in chains to a political scheduler is utterly disgusting," he said. Anderson is supporting Hickenlooper's rival, former state House speaker Andrew Romanoff, in the June 30 Democratic primary to face Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) in the fall.

Hickenlooper did indeed apologize, as the article goes on to point out:

"Taking a look at this video from six years ago, I recognize that my comments were painful," he said in a statement provided by his campaign. "I did not intend them to be. I offer my deepest apologies."

Hickenlooper's joke was disturbing, to be sure, but at least it wasn't disgustingly pornographic -- which brings us to our second MDDOTW winner, who is apparently a real piece of work:

The Nebraska Democratic Party called on its U.S. Senate nominee to drop out of the race Tuesday after he made sexually repugnant comments about a campaign staffer in a group text with her and other staffers.

The party said its state executive committee voted unanimously on Monday evening to withdraw all of its resources from Chris Janicek's campaign.

Janicek, the owner of an Omaha cupcake bakery, is challenging Republican Sen. Ben Sasse, who is seeking a second term. Janicek accepted the Democratic nomination a little more than a month ago after winning a seven-candidate primary race, but the odds of winning in November were against him in Republican-dominated Nebraska even before his party withdrew its support.

"Our Democratic Party has no tolerance for sexual harassment," state Democratic Party Chairwoman Jane Kleeb said in a statement. "Our party will not extend resources or any type of support to any candidate that violates our code of conduct and doesn't treat men and women with the dignity and respect they deserve."

The text messages, which were obtained by The Associated Press, were from a group chat involving Janicek and five other people, including the female staffer. At one point, he wrote that he had argued with her and then asked whether the campaign should spend money on "getting her laid."

"It will probably take three guys," he wrote, before describing in graphic detail an imagined group sex scene involving the female staffer.

He then tried walk back those comments as "a joke," and texted an apology to the group.

"I'm going on no sleep and a bunch of exuberant excitement and I think I was out of line," he wrote.

. . .

Janicek didn't deny that he made offensive comments, but he said he apologized for them and assumed the matter would be kept private.

Vince Powers, a Lincoln attorney and former state party chairman who is representing the female staffer, said Janicek also apologized to his client in person, but that she still wants him out of the race.

"People go to work for Democratic candidates in an underdog race because they're idealists," Powers said. "So when you get a text like this, it's just devastating."

Unfortunately, while the party has pulled all money and support for Janicek, there's little they can do otherwise, so at this point it looks like he'll still be on the ballot in November.

For saying downright unacceptable things, both John Hickenlooper and Chris Janicek are this week's winners of our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award. For shame, gentlemen. For shame.

[Both John Hickenlooper and Chris Janicek are private citizens and our blanket policy is to not provide contact info to campaign websites, so you'll have to search their information out for yourselves if you'd like to let them know what you think of their actions.]

Volume 579 (6/19/20)

Today we're presenting a sort of "make your own talking points section." This is because we think that pretty much any excerpt from John Bolton's upcoming book can become a Democratic talking point with a minimum of introduction.

All of these come from the Washington Post review of the book, which is extensive and has plenty more stories just like the following. Such as the fact that the quid pro quo with Ukraine was absolutely true: "[President Trump] said he wasn't in favor of sending them anything until all Russia-investigation material related to [Hillary] Clinton and Biden had been turned over." Or how pathetically easy it was for foreign despots to manipulate Trump: "Putin had to be laughing uproariously at what he had gotten away with in Helsinki."

The best quote yet sums up Trump's entire approach to his presidency: "Trump commingled the personal and the national not just on trade questions but across the whole field of national security. I am hard-pressed to identify any significant Trump decision during my White House tenure that wasn't driven by reelection calculations."

Bolton's book is nothing new, in a way, because it merely reinforces the exact same portrait of Trump that has been painted by every single other tell-all book about him. He is shallow, he is ignorant, and he is flat-out incapable of realizing even what he's supposed to be doing. But it is new in a big way, too, since it provides lots of detailed examples of how inadequate Trump truly is. So here are the seven we've chosen from the Post review, for everyone to fashion into your own derisive talking points.

Stunningly uninformed

Bolton shares a few opinions about Trump from Chief of Staff John F. Kelly.

"What if we have a real crisis like 9/11 with the way he makes decisions?" Kelly is quoted as asking at one point as he considers resigning.

"He second-guessed people's motives, saw conspiracies behind rocks, and remained stunningly uninformed on how to run the White House, let alone the huge federal government," Bolton writes, always looking to "personal instinct" and opportunities for "reality TV showmanship."

. . .

Soon after he arrived at the White House, Bolton said Kelly gave him a warning. "You can't imagine how desperate I am to get out of here," Kelly said, according to Bolton's book. "This is a bad place to work, as you will find out."

Trump is an idiot (part 1)

This merely continues a very long list of monumentally stupid things Trump has said either to his aides or directly to foreign leaders.

Bolton recounts numerous private conversations Trump had with other leaders that revealed the limits of his knowledge. He recalls Trump asking Kelly if Finland is part of Russia. In a meeting with then-British Prime Minister Theresa May in 2018, a British official referred to the United Kingdom as a "nuclear power," and Trump interjects: "Oh, are you a nuclear power?" Bolton adds that he could tell the question about Britain, which has long maintained a nuclear arsenal, "was not intended as a joke."

Trump is an idiot (part 2)

How many states does Trump think there are?

Bolton attributes a litany of shocking statements to the president. Trump said invading Venezuela would be "cool" and that the South American nation was "really part of the United States." Bolton says Trump kept confusing the current and former presidents of Afghanistan, while asking Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to help him strike a deal with Iran. And Trump told Xi that Americans were clamoring for him to change constitutional rules to serve more than two terms, according to the book.

Trump is evil (part 1)

Hey, Trump's got no problem with it. Why should he? Trump would love to have such camps right here at home, after all. Boy would that solve the problem of those pesky protesters!

Bolton describes Trump as callously unconcerned about human rights violations. He writes that during an opening dinner of the G-20 meeting in Osaka in 2019 attended only by interpreters, Xi explained to Trump "why he was basically building concentration camps" in a northwest Chinese province where the government has been interning Uighurs, an ethnic minority.

According to Bolton, the U.S. interpreter said that Trump spoke approvingly of the camps. Bolton writes that he was told by Matt Pottinger, a National Security Council official who is hawkish on China, that Trump had said something similar during a 2017 trip to China.

"In my government experience, it was the most irrational thing I ever witnessed any president do," he said.

"This is really dangerous," [Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo said, according to Bolton's book, as both men fumed about the president.

Trump is evil (part 2)

Yet another thing Trump wishes he could do -- assassinate journalists.

In November 2018, Trump came under fire for writing an unfettered defense of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, littered with exclamation points, over the killing of Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. But according to Bolton's book, the main goal of the missive was to take away attention from a story about Ivanka Trump using her personal email for government business.

"This will divert from Ivanka," Trump said, according to Bolton's book. "If I read the statement in person, that will take over the Ivanka thing."

All about the photo op

This should come as no surprise, since the one thing both men value highly is getting lots and lots of fawning press.

When Bolton recounts the Trump-Kim [Jong Un] meeting in Singapore, the first summit of U.S. and North Korean leaders in history, Bolton castigates Trump's diplomatic efforts, saying the president cared little for the details of the denuclearization effort and saw it merely as a "an exercise in publicity."

He describes it extensively -- including what Kim and his advisers say, and what Trump and his advisers say in return, giving a fly-on-the-wall account of a historic event.

"Trump told... me he was prepared to sign a substance-free communique, have his press conference to declare victory and then get out of town," Bolton wrote.

Because of course he did

Un-freakin'-believable. We're truly at a loss for words....

In the months following the summit, Bolton described Trump's inordinate interest in Pompeo delivering an autographed copy of Elton John's "Rocket Man" on CD to Kim during Pompeo's follow-on visit to North Korea. Trump had used the term "Little Rocket Man" to criticize the North Korean leader but subsequently tried to convince Kim that it was a term of affection.

"Trump didn't seem to realize Pompeo hadn't actually seen Kim Jong Un [during the trip], asking if Pompeo had handed" the CD, wrote Bolton. "Pompeo had not. Getting this CD to Kim remained a high priority for several months."

Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
Follow Chris on Twitter: ChrisWeigant
Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com
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Friday Talking Points -- Trump Doubles Down On Racism

President Donald Trump seems to have settled on a theme for his campaign, as he doubles down on blatant racism. Think that's too strongly put? We don't. Consider the following, from just the past week:

Trump announces his first rally since the start of the pandemic, in Tulsa, Oklahoma on June 19. Here's why that's a monumentally insensitive place and date: "In 1921, that city was the site of one of the worst race massacres in U.S. history. A white mob descended on an affluent black neighborhood. As many as 300 people died. The June 19 rally also happens to coincide with Juneteenth, a holiday widely celebrated in the black community to mark the day that the last American slaves were freed." As one late-night comic joked, it's like Trump told Stephen Miller to pick the most offensive place and date possible (since Trump wouldn't know beans about either historical reference).

Team Trump also announced that the Republican National Convention (well, parts of it, at any rate) will be moved from North Carolina to Jacksonville, Florida, since they're willing to allow a full-on convention with no coronavirus restrictions whatsoever. Trump will reportedly accept his party's nomination on August 27, the second day of the convention. And here's why that's also a monumentally insensitive date and place:

On Aug. 27, 1960, a mob of 200 white people in Jacksonville, Fla. -- organized by the Ku Klux Klan and joined by some of the city's police officers -- chased and beat peaceful civil rights protesters who were trying to integrate downtown lunch counters. The bloody carnage that followed -- in which ax handles and baseball bats were used to club African Americans, who sought sanctuary in a church -- is remembered as "Ax Handle Saturday."

So Trump is starting his rallies up again to commemorate the 99th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, on Juneteenth, after which he will be formally nominated on the 60th anniversary of Ax Handle Saturday. These aren't just "dog whistles," folks, these are flat-out statements that Team Trump -- and by extension, the entire Republican Party -- simply do not care what black people think. Not one tiny little bit.

If anyone's still in doubt, Trump is the lone holdout in a new movement to rename 10 Army bases which have honored traitors to this country who waged a treasonous insurrection against the federal government (which we wrote about last week, by the way). The bases named for Confederate generals (and one colonel) are, at this particular point, so indefensible that the Army itself had just signaled that they were indeed open to the concept of renaming them -- which was a stunning turnaround from their decades of refusing to even consider the idea. Defense Secretary Mark Esper also signaled he would be open to such a move. The Marine Corps and the Navy just banned the Confederate battle flag. And even the Republican-controlled Senate had taken steps to force renaming the bases in the next three years.

Everyone was on board, it seemed, except Trump. Here's how he reacted: "These Monumental and very Powerful Bases have become part of a Great American Heritage, and a history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom.... Therefore, my Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations." Note that Trump was utterly unaware of the irony of proclaiming "a history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom," when the men the bases were named after lost and surrendered in their war to continue the enslavement of African-Americans. Also, "Fabled"? These are not imaginary bases, they are actually quite real. But Trump threatened to veto any bill which tried to rename them.

Just moments after his tweet, NASCAR also announced a ban on the Confederate flag. That's right -- even NASCAR is showing more moral leadership than the president of the United States. Think about that for a moment.

Need more proof? Mercedes Schlapp, a senior Trump campaign advisor, retweeted a video this week "that lauded a man in Texas in a viral video as he yelled the n-word and wielded a chainsaw to chase away anti-racism demonstrators.... 'Go home!' yells the man, who was arrested Friday. 'Don't let those f------ n------ out there fool you!'" When asked about it by Politico, Schlapp finally apologized and took down the tweet. Because she got caught, we have to assume.

Throughout it all, some White House advisors have tried to talk Trump into giving a national address on the problem of racial inequality. But, as Dana Milbank from the Washington Post points out, that speech has already been given, multiple times. Trump's own words absolutely condemn him on the subject, meaning there is little he could say now (or, more accurately: "read off a TelePrompTer in a disinterested and monotone voice" ) that is going to convince anyone differently.

Trump quite obviously thinks a nakedly racist strategy will be a winning one for him. He's wrong about that, because the country has changed over the past few decades -- and over the past few weeks. Polls continue to show an overwhelming majority of Americans agree with the protesters in the streets, while precious few are buying Trump's continuing conspiracy theory that it's all the work of "Antifa" and other scary-sounding leftwing groups. In fact, the polls have not been kind to Trump at all of late.

Poll after poll shows Trump sinking like a stone, while Joe Biden opens up a wider and wider lead. The polling for Biden right now is (by the way) much better than Hillary Clinton's numbers were, four years ago. Several polls just showed Biden with a whopping 14-point lead over Trump. Trump, snowflake that he is, tried to get some reassurance from his phone buddies, but according to Vanity Fair, even they weren't buying it. From a review of the article:

Gabriel Sherman at Vanity Fair reports that Trump is, in the words of one former adviser, "malignantly crazy about the bad poll numbers" and is threatening to "broom" his son-in-law Jared Kushner and campaign manager Brad Parscale. Trump's reportedly so distraught about the poll numbers he's calling up his friends in New York and "asking people to agree with him that the polls are biased," according to a source of Sherman's. "But no one is telling him what he wants to hear."

I think we can all agree that Trump is "malignantly crazy," although we personally would have stopped the sentence right there. Heh.

Kidding aside, Trump lashed out in multiple directions. He hired a notoriously bad Republican polling firm (one so bad few Republicans hire them these days) to write a letter explaining why all the polls were wrong and there was actually a huge swell of support among the American people for their Dear Leader Trump. He also sicced his campaign's legal team on CNN, for their poll showing him badly losing to Biden:

Donald Trump's reelection campaign is demanding that CNN apologize for a poll that shows Joe Biden with a 14-point lead over the president.

The campaign also wants the news network to retract the poll, supposedly because it's biased (but really because it points out the serious challenges Trump faces in his quest for a second term).

The campaign whined about the negative poll stated its position in a cease-and-desist letter to CNN President Jeff Zucker. It argued that the CNN poll is "designed to mislead American voters through a biased questionnaire and skewed sampling."

The letter -- signed by the Trump campaign's senior legal adviser, Jenna Ellis, and chief operating officer Michael Glassner -- called CNN's poll "phony" and "a stunt" meant to "cause voter suppression, stifle momentum and enthusiasm for the President, and present a false view generally of the actual support across America for the President."

Trump's campaign minions also requested that CNN publish a "full, fair, and conspicuous retraction, apology, and clarification to correct its misleading conclusions."

CNN's response?

"We stand by our poll," Matt Dornic, a network spokesman, said.

In a similar display of ineptitude, the Republicans have just voted to adopt their 2016 party platform document, unchanged. This is pretty hilarious, since it contains lots of snide references to "the president" and "the current administration." Here's the best example: "The current Administration has abandoned America's friends and rewarded its enemies." Hard to argue with that, really, at this point.

Speaking of ineptitude, the Trump administration may have just made a serious (perhaps even fatal) error. It was just reported that Trump's Department of the Interior is going to push -- after the election, notably -- to resume offshore drilling in Florida. The report notes that this is "a politically explosive topic for Floridians, who worry that oil spills would devastate their tourism-based economy in reprise of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster." If we were in charge of Joe Biden's advertising budget, we'd currently be preparing an entire ad campaign for Florida warning them all of what Trump has in mind for their state. Because this is a real political loser for Trump, in a very key swing state.

OK, this is already long enough, so we'll just whip through a few more items before moving along. The coronavirus pandemic seems to be entering a second wave, even if all the governors (from blue states and red) are ignoring the warning signs in their rush to reopen. Oh, and the C.D.C. reports that more and more people are following Trump's sage advice by gargling bleach.

Republicans in Iowa are terrified of their citizens being able to easily vote, so they're moving to make it harder and more dangerous. Because of course they are.

There are several disconcerting signs of possible election problems in November, which stretch beyond what was called "a hot, flaming mess" in Georgia (which they had been warned about in advance, multiple times, it is worth mentioning). Long story short, when states that are unused to massive mail-in balloting try to count the ballots, it can take a long time.

Speaking of voting by mail, we wonder what President Trump would say about a person trying to vote by using a business address as their residence -- which is against state law. Perhaps he'd call it "voter fraud"? Or what about someone illegally using their parents' address to vote even though they were clearly a resident of another state at the time? More "voter fraud"? This describes how both Donald Trump and his official mouthpiece Kayleigh McEnany have been casting their ballots -- by mail -- in Florida. Which, incidentally, is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

And finally, Senator Tom Cotton tried to use an absurd example by predicting that them dang libruls wanted to rename the Washington Monument the "Obelisk Of Wokeness." The Twitterverse was highly amused by this label, with several pointing out that it would be a great name for a heavy metal album.

We're going to kind of punt on this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award, because the people who impressed us the most this week are studiously apolitical. That's the whole point, in fact. But before we get to that, here are a few noteworthy Democrats who would have been considered if this hadn't been a week of monumental pushback on Donald Trump.

First and foremost was Philonise Floyd, brother of George, who gave some wrenching testimony to the House Judiciary Committee this week. His remarks (from two sources, so they may be in the wrong order, we should admit) were nothing short of powerful:

I couldn't take care of George the day he was killed, but maybe by speaking with you today, I can help make sure that his death isn't in vain. He didn't deserve to die over 20 dollars. I am asking you, is that what a black man is worth? Twenty dollars? This is 2020. Enough is enough.

I can't tell you the kind of pain you feel when you watch something like that. When you watch your big brother, who you've looked up to your whole life, die. Die begging for your mom. I'm tired. I'm tired of the pain I'm feeling now and I'm tired of the pain I feel every time another black person is killed for no reason. I'm here today to ask you to make it stop. Stop the pain. Stop us from being tired.

Protesters in multiple cities tore down statues that had outlived their purpose this week. In Boston, a Christopher Columbus statue was beheaded, another in St. Paul, Minnesota, was toppled, and in Richmond, Virginia, Chris was unceremoniously dumped into a lake. Also in Richmond, a Jefferson Davis statue was toppled, and a few others along Monument Avenue seem to be next on the list.

Nancy Pelosi is now leading an effort to remove Confederate statues from the Capitol, but Mitch McConnell is (of course) fighting the plan.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo reacted to Trump's delusional tweet pushing a conspiracy theory about a 75-year-old protester shoved to the ground in Buffalo for no reason whatsoever (and who was still in the hospital in very serious condition after his fall). Cuomo didn't mince words in responding to Trump:

How reckless. How irresponsible. How mean. How crude. I mean, if there was ever a reprehensible, dumb comment -- and from the president of the United States. At this moment of anguish and anger, what does he do? Pours gasoline on the fire. If he ever feels a moment of decency, he should apologize for that tweet. Because it is wholly unacceptable.

Also getting under Trump's skin this week were both the governor of Washington state and the mayor of Seattle. Here's the story:

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, both Democrats, mocked President Donald Trump over his threat to invade the state's most populous city after protesters set up a "cop-free" zone around Capitol Hill.

Peaceful protesters created a six-block "Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone" after the city's police department abandoned their precinct in an effort to de-escalate tensions prompted by officers' use of tear gas on demonstrators, which was temporarily banned by Durkan. Protesters in the "cop-free zone" have brought art and books to the area, and demonstrators have also held concerts and movie nights.

But as Seattle moved to ease tensions after weeks of protests, Trump threatened to send in federal forces to "take back" the city amid numerous threats to sic the military on peaceful protesters.

"Radical Left Governor @JayInslee and the Mayor of Seattle are being taunted and played at a level that our great Country has never seen before," Trump tweeted. "Take back your city NOW. If you don't do it, I will. This is not a game. These ugly Anarchists must be stooped [sic] IMMEDIATELY. MOVE FAST!"

But Inslee and Durkan, both Democrats, did not seem overly concerned about the protesters or Trump's threat.

"A man who is totally incapable of governing should stay out of Washington state's business. 'Stoop' tweeting," wrote Inslee, mocking the president's typo.

"Make us all safe. Go back to your bunker," Durkan tweeted, adding a #BlackLivesMatter hashtag.

And finally the Meidas Touch PAC, founded by Ben Meiselas (the lawyer representing Colin Kaepernick), put out a great new ad chastising Trump for calling the crackdown on protesters "beautiful." The ad ends with "None of this is beautiful," and "End this ugly presidency." This immediately caused #UglyPresident to trend on Twitter.

But while all of that was notable, what was much more important this week was the growing reaction from military officials in condemnation of Trump's use of military force in Washington, D.C. -- especially the effort to clear Lafayette Square so Trump could hold a blatantly political photo opportunity, holding a Bible up in front of a church.

Last week, plenty of generals spoke up, and Defense Secretary Mark Esper essentially admitted that it was wrong for him to appear with Trump in some of the photos. This week, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley apologized much more directly. This was after Milley felt the need to issue "a memo reminding America's military personnel that their loyalty is to the Constitution, not to any one individual who happens to hold political power." This week he went further by admitting his own culpability in a graduation speech to the National Defense University (again, our apologies for using multiple sources and being unsure of the actual order of these statements):

I should not have been there. My presence in that moment and in that environment created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics.

As a commissioned uniformed officer, it was a mistake that I have learned from, and I sincerely hope we all can learn from it.

That sparked a national debate about the role of the military in civil society. My presence in that moment and in that environment created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics.

We who wear the cloth of our nation come from the people of our nation, and we must hold dear the principle of an apolitical military that is so deeply rooted in the very essence of our republic.

Colin Powell, who is retired, was even blunter:

"I think [Donald Trump] has not been an effective president," Powell told CNN's Jake Tapper in an interview Sunday morning. "He lies all the time. He began lying the day of inauguration, when we got into an argument about the size of the crowd that was there. People are writing books about this favorite thing of lying. And I don't think that's in our interest."

. . .

"I'm very happy with what General [John] Allen said and all the other generals, admirals are saying and diplomats are saying. We have a Constitution and we have to follow that Constitution, and the president has drifted away from it."

. . .

"The one word I have to use -- with respect to what he's been doing for the last several years -- is a word I would never have used before and I never would have used with any of the four presidents I have worked for: He lies. He lies about things. And he gets away with it, because people will not hold him accountable."

Retired General Wesley Clark, former supreme commander of NATO, was just as scathing:

Trump is a very good example of what not to do and be as a leader. He doesn't take responsibility. He doesn't build trust. He doesn't bring people together. He doesn't do his homework and understand the details of the decisions he's making. He doesn't think through the strategic consequences.

Donald Trump is a transactional leader. He thinks that being president of the United States is the same as buying real estate. Donald Trump also believes that he can use reckless rhetoric and that there will not be any consequences. In both international and domestic politics, language has consequences. Trump's abusive language is very problematic.

Reliability and consistency are very important. Trump does not have those qualities.

As the president of the United States, he represents the whole country. The United States has spent 75 years since the end of World War II assuring the world that we had strong values and that was true across administrations. America also made sure the world understood that we were reliable. President Trump has discarded those values.

They weren't the only ones speaking out, either. An astonishing 89 former high-ranking defense officials -- including four former secretaries of Defense -- signed a letter which ran in the Washington Post condemning Trump from betraying his oath to defend the Constitution.

Remember when Trump promised to "listen to his generals?" Well, Mister President, they're talking to you right now. The Battle Of Lafayette Square was an abomination. It was a direct assault on the very Constitution you swore to uphold. That's precisely what all the generals are saying. And they're right.

Joe Biden even went as far as predicting that it'll take the military to pry Trump out of the White House, when the time comes:

I was so damn proud. You have four [chairman of the Joint] Chiefs of Staff coming out and ripping the skin off of Trump, and you have so many rank-and-file military personnel saying, "Whoa, we're not a military state. This is not who we are." I promise you, I'm absolutely convinced they will escort him from the White House with great dispatch.

The apolitical nature of the United States military is an absolute bedrock of American democracy. Donald Trump has soiled that tradition. This is more important than anything else that was going on this week, at least in the larger constitutional sense. Which is why although we cannot give apolitical figures a very political award, we're using this space instead to offer them all our heartfelt applause. Evil triumphs when good men stay silent, which is why now is not the time to do so. For bravely speaking out, all of these military officers deserve the thanks of our nation.

Once again, no Democrat rose to the level of disappointment this week, at least in our eyes, so we'll have to put the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award back on the shelf until next week -- unless anyone's got a nomination to make down in the comments (as always).

Volume 578 (6/12/20)

We're dispensing with our own talking points this week in order to counter one that has grown in importance already. And we have to admit, up front, that what we have to say most likely isn't going to win us any friends on the far left, but we still feel the need to address it here.

"Defund the police" is a really bad slogan. There, we said it.

We cannot argue that proponents of the idea aren't fighting for the right cause, because we too believe in that general cause. We agree that policing in American needs massive realignment. We are even sympathetic to the concept of moving police funding from doing things like buying military-grade equipment and weapons to social services instead. But we still say it's a very bad political slogan to champion.

Admittedly, as a slogan, it is short and sweet. Only three words. Memorable. Those are all big points in its favor. But the key problem lies in the fact that it is not exactly easily-defined -- except by those who oppose it.

What does "defund the police" mean? Well, you get different answers if you ask different people. It is nebulous, even to the people who are using it. But to its detractors it means one thing and one thing only: "completely remove all police and replace them with nothing more than social workers." Some people using the phrase even actually agree with this interpretation:

For some activists, such as those behind the movement "8toabolition," defunding the police is part of a larger effort to redefine society.

"The end goal of these reforms is not to create better, friendlier, or more community-oriented police or prisons," the group's website reads. "Instead, we hope to build toward a society without police or prisons, where communities are equipped to provide for their safety and wellbeing."

What this means is that other people and groups using the slogan who aren't this radical have to continually define exactly what they mean by it, while opponents don't have to bother with explanations. "Defunding" means "getting rid of" to a whole lot of people, plain and simple. And when you have to define a political slogan because the first impression it leaves is the wrong one, it is a bad slogan almost by definition.

So far, while a heartening majority of Americans support the protests and what the protesters are saying, this particular slogan polls pretty badly. An ABC/Ipsos poll just out shows 64 percent of the public against defunding the police, and even when nuanced by asking about "reducing the budget of the police department in your community, even if that means fewer police officers, if the money is shifted to programs related to health, housing, and education," it didn't help much -- 60 percent were against that, too.

These numbers get worse the closer you look. Here's a better breakdown of polling on all of the goals of the movement:

But the idea of defunding is also by far the least popular, with just 27% of Americans in favor. By contrast, solid majorities of the public favor banning police chokeholds (73% support this), creating a federal registry for complaints against officers (72%), developing a national standard for police use of force (69%), making it easier for the federal government to charge officers for using excessive force (68%), assigning independent prosecutors to handle cases where officers use fatal force (67%) and eliminating officers' "qualified immunity" against misconduct lawsuits (59%).

There's more modest support for barring the use of "no-knock" warrants in drug cases (49%) and for limiting the transfer of military equipment to police departments (46%). The public is almost evenly divided on a proposal to cut the budget of their local police department, and instead increase spending on services like social workers and mental health professionals.

Few groups even within the Democratic base support the idea:

Self-described liberals support defunding the police by a 13-point margin. But nearly every other ideological and demographic group opposes it. Democrats and Democratic leaners oppose it by a 4-percentage point margin, and Black Americans oppose it by a 20-point margin.

Even African-Americans aren't on board this particular train yet, in other words. Which is why Joe Biden very smartly also refused to get on board:

"No. I don't support defunding the police," Biden told CBS's Norah O'Donnell on Monday night. "I support conditioning federal aid to police based on whether they meet certain basic standards of decency and honorableness and, in fact, are able to demonstrate they can protect the community, and everybody in the community."

In other words, this is a bad political slogan, at least right now. It even risks overshadowing the rest of the movement's goals -- which, as that polling shows, is largely supported by the public -- as opponents of "defund the police" try to make it the sole demand of the protesters. Which Trump and his minions are already attempting.

So speaking from a wordsmithing point of view, this is a bad slogan. More people view it negatively than positively -- even among the Democratic base. It is probably already too late to attempt to change it to something more definitional -- something which doesn't require another paragraph or two to explain, in other words. National Democrats are moving past it already, by making a solid proposal in Congress to reform policing nationwide, which is all to the good. Joe Biden has already said he doesn't support the idea, which could lessen the impact of Trump and all the GOP detractors. So please, let's not make this the centerpiece of what, so far, has been a widely-supported nationwide movement. We respect those who disagree with this conclusion, but we still feel that anything this unpopular deserves some serious second thoughts.

Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
Follow Chris on Twitter: ChrisWeigant
Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com
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Friday Talking Points -- The Battle Of Lafayette Square

This week, an American president ordered the violent removal of peaceful protesters -- who were doing nothing more than exercising their First Amendment rights to assemble, speak, and petition the government for redress -- from a public park so that he could then walk across the park and hold up a borrowed Bible for a photo opportunity with both the Secretary of Defense and (clad in battle fatigues) the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Afterward, the Trump White House immediately issued a propaganda video of the event. Later that evening, a military helicopter clearly marked with a red cross took offensive action against the protesters (which is banned by the Geneva Conventions, and is now under investigation). Later still, the president and all his enablers in the White House lied through their teeth about the entire incident, repeatedly. At week's end, we learned of another affront to the Constitution by the Trump administration, when it was revealed that federal law enforcement had unconstitutionally seized a shipment of cloth face masks created by a Black Lives Matter affiliate, and the only possible reason they did so was that the Department of Justice apparently didn't like the messages displayed on the masks (which read: "Stop killing black people," and: "Defund police" ).

We can't help but think of an old bumpersticker, which used to be popular a few decades ago: "If you aren't outraged, you aren't paying attention."

Many have speculated that Trump's new campaign focus on being "the law-and-order president" harkens back to Richard Nixon's successful bid in 1968. But this week reminded me of another president, from further back. Here are excerpts from the Wikipedia article on the "Bonus Army," by way of explanation:

The Bonus Army was a group of 43,000 demonstrators -- made up of 17,000 U.S. World War I veterans, together with their families and affiliated groups -- who gathered in Washington, D.C. in mid-1932 to demand early cash redemption of their service certificates. Organizers called the demonstrators the "Bonus Expeditionary Force", to echo the name of World War I's American Expeditionary Forces, while the media referred to them as the "Bonus Army" or "Bonus Marchers". The demonstrators were led by Walter W. Waters, a former sergeant.

Many of the war veterans had been out of work since the beginning of the Great Depression. The World War Adjusted Compensation Act of 1924 had awarded them bonuses in the form of certificates they could not redeem until 1948. Each certificate, issued to a qualified veteran soldier, bore a face value equal to the soldier's promised payment with compound interest. The principal demand of the Bonus Army was the immediate cash payment of their certificates.

On July 28, U.S. Attorney General William D. Mitchell ordered the veterans removed from all government property. Washington police met with resistance, shot at the protestors, and two veterans were wounded and later died. President Herbert Hoover then ordered the U.S. Army to clear the marchers' campsite. Army Chief of Staff General Douglas MacArthur commanded a contingent of infantry and cavalry, supported by six tanks. The Bonus Army marchers with their wives and children were driven out, and their shelters and belongings burned.

. . .

On July 28, 1932, President Hoover ordered the Secretary of War to disperse the protesters. Towards the late afternoon, cavalry, infantry, tanks and machine guns pushed the "Bonusers" out of Washington. When the veterans moved back into the camp, police drew their revolvers and shot at the veterans, two of whom, William Hushka and Eric Carlson, died later.

. . .

At 1:40 pm MacArthur ordered General Perry Miles to assemble troops on the Ellipse immediately south of the White House. Within the hour the 3rd Cavalry led by [George S.] Patton, then a Major, crossed the Memorial Bridge, with the 12th Infantry arriving by steamer about an hour later. At 4 pm Miles told MacArthur that the troops were ready, and MacArthur (like Eisenhower, by now in service uniform), said that Hoover wanted him "on hand" to "take the rap if..."

Although the troops were ready, Hoover twice sent instructions to MacArthur not to cross the Anacostia bridge that night, both of which were ignored. Shortly after 9 p.m., MacArthur ordered Miles to cross the bridge and evict the Bonus Army from its encampment.

At 4:45 p.m., commanded by General Douglas MacArthur, the 12th Infantry Regiment, Fort Howard, Maryland, and the 3rd Cavalry Regiment, supported by six M1917 light tanks commanded by Maj. George S. Patton, formed in Pennsylvania Avenue while thousands of civil service employees left work to line the street and watch. The Bonus Marchers, believing the troops were marching in their honor, cheered the troops until Patton ordered the cavalry to charge them, which prompted the spectators to yell, "Shame! Shame!"

After the cavalry charged, the infantry, with fixed bayonets and tear gas (adamsite, an arsenical vomiting agent) entered the camps, evicting veterans, families, and camp followers. The veterans fled across the Anacostia River to their largest camp, and Hoover ordered the assault stopped. MacArthur chose to ignore the president and ordered a new attack, claiming that the Bonus March was an attempt to overthrow the US government. 55 veterans were injured and 135 arrested. A veteran's wife miscarried. When 12-week-old Bernard Myers died in the hospital after being caught in the tear gas attack, a government investigation reported he died of enteritis, and a hospital spokesman said the tear gas "didn't do it any good."

During the military operation, Major Dwight D. Eisenhower, later the 34th president of the United States, served as one of MacArthur's junior aides. Believing it wrong for the Army's highest-ranking officer to lead an action against fellow American war veterans, he strongly advised MacArthur against taking any public role: "I told that dumb son-of-a-bitch not to go down there," he said later. "I told him it was no place for the Chief of Staff." Despite his misgivings, Eisenhower later wrote the Army's official incident report that endorsed MacArthur's conduct.

Please note that 1932 was a presidential election year. Hoover lost to Franklin D. Roosevelt. Will this history repeat itself? It's just as valid to speculate about 1932 as 1968, after the events of this week.

Because so much happened so fast, we're going to have to speed through the timeline, and provide links for further reading (such as this one, with a full timeline of the Battle of Lafayette Square).

Last weekend, Trump attempted to call the family of George Floyd, probably after hearing that Joe Biden had already called them. It did not go well. Floyd's brother:

The call with Trump was "so fast," [Philonise] Floyd told the Rev. Al Sharpton on "Politics Nation."

"He didn't give me the opportunity to even speak," Floyd said, as his son Brandon sat beside him. "It was hard. I was trying to talk to him, but he just kept, like, pushing me off, like: 'I don't want to hear what you're talking about.'"

Floyd said: "I just told him I want justice. I said that I couldn't believe that they committed a modern-day lynching in broad daylight. I can't stand for that. I can't. And it hurt me."

Also during the weekend, both Trump and Attorney General William Barr issue threats to protesters. Both seem fixated on "antifa" (with Trump even attempting a legal impossibility by threatening to label antifa a "domestic terrorist organization" ), even though neither has shown the slightest shred of evidence to back up such claims. Meanwhile, right-wing agitators have indeed been arrested trying to use the cover of the protests to launch their own war against the police. These groups are never mentioned by Trump or Barr.

Last Friday, Trump was hustled to a White House bunker after protesters breached the White House security perimeter. This is a normal occurrence when such breaches happen (remember all the previous "fence-jumpers"?), but Trump got plenty of ridicule for "hiding in a bunker," most of which was well-deserved, since he's spent the past few weeks taunting Joe Biden for "hiding in his basement." Because Trump knew he looked so weak, he decided to stage a strongman display on Monday.

First, he called up the nation's governors to insult them directly, calling them "weak" and "fools." He also told them: "If you don't dominate, you're wasting your time. They're going to run over you -- you're going to look like a bunch of jerks. You have to dominate." Trump offhandedly said he wanted to make flag-burning illegal, even though the Supreme Court has ruled twice that this is constitutionally-protected First Amendment free speech.

Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker pushed back during the phone call with Trump:

I wanted to take this moment -- and I can't let it pass -- to speak up and say that I've been extraordinarily concerned about the rhetoric that's been used by you. It's been inflammatory. We have to call for calm. We have to have police reform called for. We've called out our national guard and our state police, but the rhetoric that's coming out of the White House is making it worse. And I need to say that people are feeling real pain out there and we've got to have national leadership in calling for calm and making sure that we're addressing the concerns of the legitimate peaceful protesters. That will help us to bring order.

Trump responded with the classic "I know you are but what am I?" defense: "I don't like your rhetoric much either. I think you could've done a much better job, frankly."

Some of Trump's own White House staff seemed to agree that some sort of unity message would be helpful: "The White House's top domestic policy adviser on Monday said President Donald Trump is exploring a range of bipartisan initiatives intended to unify the country amid a nationwide eruption of racial unrest and protests that have ravaged major American cities." Of course, no such proposals will ever see the light of day. Because Trump had a different idea about what would be helpful.

A half an hour before the announced 7:00 P.M. curfew in D.C., Barr ordered federal troops to clear Lafayette Square, even though neither the mayor nor the D.C. police had requested such a move. They used chemical weapons (gas) and non-lethal projectiles (rubber bullets) on the protesters, which was filmed live by the media who were in attendance. On the steps of the church in question -- on their own property, in other words -- ministers were peacefully handing out drinks and energy bars to the protesters. All were swept aside by the advancing federal troops.

Seminarian Julia Joyce Domenick told HuffPost what happened to her:

"The irony, the sickening, sacrilegious irony is that we were being driven off in order for a photo opportunity to show the president and his commitment to religion ideas," Gerbasi said. "It's grotesque and offensive and sacrilegious."

She said she was acting out her religious beliefs by serving protesters at the church and that her religious freedom was violated when she was forced off church property by tear gas.

. . .

"No warning... Screaming, flash grenades, and tear gas came at us. People ran as fast as they could around the corner of the church. Within minutes all of the church volunteers were met with a crowd running from the police and the police swarming the church property," she wrote on Facebook.

"We were gassed for a photo op," Domenick added. "Is ANY life valuable to him? Is it all about ratings?"

Other faith leaders were just as harsh:

The president hoisted the holy book "as if it were spiritual validation and justification for a message that is antithetical to the teachings of Jesus and to the God of justice," the Right Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, told ABC News.

Jesuit priest James Martin argued on CNN that the use of violence "to remove peacemakers from in front of the church -- so you can hold up a Bible and say how great America is while you're promising military action against peaceful protesters -- seems to me to be the complete opposite of what Jesus taught."

Ahead of Trump's scheduled visit Tuesday to the Saint John Paul II National Shrine, Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory called it "baffling and reprehensible that any Catholic facility would allow itself to be so egregiously misused and manipulated in a fashion that violates our religious principles."

The late pope, Gregory said in his statement, "was an ardent defender of the rights and dignity of human beings," and "certainly would not condone the use of tear gas and other deterrents to silence, scatter or intimidate them for a photo opportunity in front of a place of worship and peace."

As flash-bang grenades could be heard by the media in attendance, Trump delivered a bellicose speech in the Rose Garden:

Trump, speaking at the White House, said he "strongly recommended" every governor fully deploy the National Guard in response to the riots. If a city or state refuses, "I will deploy the U.S. military and quickly solve the problem for them," he said, citing his authority under the Insurrection Act of 1807.

"I am your president of law and order," Trump said.

. . .

"As we speak, I am dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel and law enforcement officers to stop the rioting, looting, vandalism, assaults and the wanton destruction of property," Trump said.

He ended his speech by mysteriously promising: "And now I'm going to pay my respects to a very, very special place."

Trump then went on his walk to the church, awkwardly held up a borrowed Bible, turned around and walked back to the White House.

Despite all of this being caught on multiple cameras, Trump and everyone around him has repeatedly lied about what happened ever since. Barr claims his order to clear the park had nothing to do with Trump's staged photo op. He also claimed (just as laughably) that he didn't "necessarily view" the photo op "as a political act." Mark Esper later said he "had no idea" where they were going, and just followed along with the president. Trump has even now claimed that he was never hustled to the bunker in the first place (what set all of this off), and instead made a "tiny little short" visit that was "much more for an inspection." The White House has also tried to bait the press with some truly moronic hair-splitting over what constitutes "tear gas."

The reactions have been harsh, all across the political spectrum. So many people are now turning on Trump, in fact, it is hard to keep track of all of them. Trump's polling is sinking like a stone, pretty much across the board.

This even includes a few Republican senators -- the ones who haven't been hiding from the media ever since Trump's disastrous photo op:

"It was painful to watch peaceful protesters be subjected to tear gas in order for the president to go across the street to a church that I believe he's attended only once," said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). "I thought that the president came across as unsympathetic and as insensitive to the rights of people to peaceful protest."

"There is a fundamental -- a constitutional -- right to protest, and I'm against clearing out a peaceful protest for a photo op that treats the Word of God as a political prop," added Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), who also decried rioting and looting. "Every public servant in America should be lowering the temperature."

Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski even told a reporter that she wasn't even sure if she could support Trump in November, which earned her a petulant and nasty tweet from Trump.

Trump is pretty peeved by all of this, and when today's unemployment numbers turned out to be much better than expected, he gave a press statement that was even more disjointed than usual, where he astonishingly claimed that George Floyd was happily up in heaven beaming down on Trump and the unemployment figures. Earlier in the week, Trump claimed (once again) that he had done more for black people than any president since Abraham Lincoln -- a claim which is downright ludicrous (most historians would put L.B.J. in second place on such a list, and put Trump way down towards the bottom).

In other downright laughable lies from the Trump White House this week came Kellyanne Conway trying to denigrate all those who had questioned Trump's religious sincerity during the photo op:

"It's very unfortunate that people of faith would call into question what is in anyone's heart, including the president's, [and] what compelled him to go over to St. John's and hold up his Bible," she said. "The politicization of that by people of faith is very unfortunate."

Here's a flashback to explain why this is nothing short of hypocritical horse manure, from a prayer breakfast Trump attended with many faith leaders. Trump slammed Mitt Romney and Nancy Pelosi during his remarks (after Romney voted to convict Trump after giving a speech about how his faith mandated such a vote, and after Pelosi said she regularly prayed for Trump):

"I don't like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong," President Donald Trump said during his speech at the breakfast.

"Nor do I like people who say, 'I pray for you,' when they know that that's not so," he added, taking an obvious shot at Pelosi, who often says she prays for the president.

So much for "calling into question what is in anyone's heart" when it comes to religion, eh, Kellyanne?

Also vying for most-hilarious-lie was Mike Pence, who sanctimoniously tweeted:

We believe in law and order in this Country. We condemn violence against property or persons. We will always stand for the right of Americans to peacefully protest and let their voices be heard.

Many on Twitter reminded the world of the facts -- that Mike Pence had spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on security for an Indianapolis Colts football game, only to immediately stand up and leave when some of the players took a knee during the National Anthem -- to protest exactly what all those protesters are now in the streets protesting. Hypocrisy, thy name is Pence.

On the heels of Trump's Bible video (filmed in the classic Leni Riefenstahl style), Team Trump hasn't been having a great week with their propaganda efforts. They released a video purporting to show that protesters were "pre-staging" piles of bricks to throw at cops, but it was quickly debunked (the videos showed random construction sites, some of them miles from the actual protests). Then they tried to use the SpaceX launch in a campaign ad, but the wife of one of the astronauts loudly complained that she hadn't given permission for images of her and her son to be "used in political propaganda without my knowledge or consent." The ad has now been taken down. Another Trump ad was also pulled by Twitter for unspecified "copyright issues."

It's easy to make fun of Trump's idiocy, but please don't lose the larger picture when doing so. The president of the United States repeatedly violated the Constitution this week for purely political and self-serving purposes. He also, according to his critics, defiled both the Bible and the church he used as a backdrop. He has ordered medical helicopters to use offensive tactics against protesters, in violation of the international rules of warfare. His Justice Department -- who halted all Department of Justice civil rights oversight of police departments very early on in his term -- has now seized harmless cloth masks because of the messages printed on them. All of these things violate the Constitution or international law. And they all took place within the span of a single week. While it is easy to get exhausted by Donald Trump, at times we all need to pay close attention -- even if it leads to outrage. Because when the president is being outrageous (in the absolute worst sense of the word), then outrage is the only possible response.

We have to give Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week, although Joe Biden was certainly a runner-up for giving a wonderful and downright presidential speech in Philadelphia in response to the protests. But Schumer's rhetoric was more memorable, at least to us (it's where we got this column's subtitle):

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer painted an ugly image of President Donald Trump "descending the dictatorial ladder" as he lay in bed at the White House Monday night with military helicopters flying above after having his photo taken at St. John's Episcopal Church.

"He probably wore out his remote control watching the clips of General Barr's victory over the unarmed in the battle of Lafayette Square," Schumer, D-N.Y., scoffed. "Then he reveled in the sounds of Black Hawks flying overhead joyously retweeting scores of preening sycophants."

. . .

With reports that law enforcement used tear gas to disperse peaceful protestors in advance of Trumpís visit to the church, Schumer also called on the Pentagonís inspector general to lead an investigation into how the military was used at Lafayette Park in tandem with the presidentís photo opportunity.

"After the gas, came the horses -- a modern-day cavalry was clearing the battlefield. The purpose, so that President Trump could wave a Bible, not read a Bible, not even his Bible, as a prop," Schumer said. "It was appalling. It was an abuse of presidential power. It may well have been illegal and it was blatantly unconstitutional."

We don't know if anyone else will begin using the term, but "The Battle of Lafayette Square" seems entirely appropriate to us. That bit at the end was pretty classic, too -- "wave a Bible, not read a Bible, not even his Bible, as a prop."

Schumer's right -- this is blatantly unconstitutional. It is indeed an abuse of presidential power. We've all gotten so used to Trump's regular antics that it's hard at times to differentiate when he does something not just truly awful but constitutionally awful. Schumer made that distinction better than anyone this week, which is why we're giving him the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award.

[Congratulate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on his Senate contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]

This is mostly unrelated to the other events of the week, but we felt it was more than worthy of the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award. See if you agree:

Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.) drew criticism Tuesday after he repeatedly asked to speak at a Bronx news conference on protests over the killing of George Floyd, then said near a live microphone, "If I didn't have a primary, I wouldn't care."

Engel, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is serving his 16th term in the House. He is facing a competitive June 23 primary, and his leading challenger, middle-school principal Jamaal Bowman, cited the statement as a sign that it's time for Engel to leave Congress.

Bowman has been endorsed by Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, who rose to fame by primarying another Democratic House member who out outstayed his New York welcome.

Engel tried to walk his "hot mic moment" back, without much success:

Engel clarified his remarks Tuesday afternoon, saying in a statement that he had wanted to convey that he cares "deeply about what's happening in this country."

"In the context of running for reelection, I thought it was important for people to know where I stand, that's why I asked to speak," Engel said. He added: "I love the Bronx, grew up in the Bronx and lived here all my life. I would not have tried to impose on the borough president if I didn't think it was important."

None of which really addressed the whole callous "If I didn't have a primary, I wouldn't care" remark, you'll notice.

For admitting to his own constituents the level of his own hypocrisy, and for quite obviously only caring about his own political future in the midst of a crisis, Eliot Engel is this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week, by far.

[Contact Representative Eliot Engel on his House contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.]

Volume 577 (6/5/20)

We are pre-empting our usual talking points section this week, because the constitutional threats are so great that the moment requires more than partisan sniping. We did consider just reprinting Barack Obama's essay on the situation, which was (in a word) presidential in nature.

Instead, though, we've selected two of the growing number of high-ranking military leaders who are forcefully speaking out about how wrong Trump's photo op truly was. The first was little noticed when it appeared, but it may actually have been instrumental in convincing Mark Esper to drastically change course midweek. It is a letter of resignation from James N. Miller, who served as undersecretary of Defense for policy from 2012 to 2014, and was (up until this week) a member of the Defense Science Board. It pointedly takes Esper to task for his role in the fiasco. He handed in this letter on Tuesday evening, and the next morning Esper changed his tune and openly disagreed with Trump about using the Insurrection Act. Reportedly, Esper's own job is now on the line for showing such independence. But this letter may have been instrumental in getting Esper to realize how wrong he had been to participate.

Hon. Mark T. Esper
Secretary of Defense
The Pentagon
Washington, D.C., 20301

Dear Secretary Esper,

I resign from the Defense Science Board, effective immediately.

When I joined the Board in early 2014, after leaving government service as Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, I again swore an oath of office, one familiar to you, that includes the commitment to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States . . . and to bear true faith and allegiance to the same."

You recited that same oath on July 23, 2019, when you were sworn in as Secretary of Defense. On Monday, June 1, 2020, I believe that you violated that oath. Law-abiding protesters just outside the White House were dispersed using tear gas and rubber bullets -- not for the sake of safety, but to clear a path for a presidential photo op. You then accompanied President Trump in walking from the White House to St. John's Episcopal Church for that photo.

President Trump's actions Monday night violated his oath to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed," as well as the First Amendment "right of the people peaceably to assemble." You may not have been able to stop President Trump from directing this appalling use of force, but you could have chosen to oppose it. Instead, you visibly supported it.

Anyone who takes the oath of office must decide where he or she will draw the line: What are the things that they will refuse to do? Secretary Esper, you have served honorably for many years, in active and reserve military duty, as Secretary of the Army, and now as Secretary of Defense. You must have thought long and hard about where that line should be drawn. I must now ask: If last night's blatant violations do not cross the line for you, what will?

Unfortunately, it appears there may be few if any lines that President Trump is not willing to cross, so you will probably be faced with this terrible question again in the coming days. You may be asked to take, or to direct the men and women serving in the U.S. military to take, actions that further undermine the Constitution and harm Americans.

As a concerned citizen, and as a former senior defense official who cares deeply about the military, I urge you to consider closely both your future actions and your future words. For example, some could interpret literally your suggestion to the nation's governors Monday that they need to "dominate the battlespace." I cannot believe that you see the United States as a "battlespace," or that you believe our citizens must be "dominated." Such language sends an extremely dangerous signal.

You have made life-and-death decisions in combat overseas; soon you may be asked to make life-and-death decisions about using the military on American streets and against Americans. Where will you draw the line, and when will you draw it?

I hope this letter of resignation will encourage you to again contemplate the obligations you undertook in your oath of office, as well as your obligations to the men and women in our military and other Americans whose lives may be at stake. In the event that at least some other senior officials may be inclined to ask these questions after reading this letter, I am making it public.

I wish you the best, in very difficult times. The sanctity of the U.S. Constitution, and the lives of Americans, may depend on your choices.


James N. Miller

The second letter we thought demanded as wide an audience as possible is the full text of what James Mattis wrote in The Atlantic this week, under the title "In Union There Is Strength." Mattis is just as upset as Miller, and again takes Esper to task. This letter appeared after Esper's change of heart, however. Mattis saves most of his condemnation for Donald Trump, however, who is much more at blame in a larger sense. Mattis ends with a plea for the country to "unite without" Trump, since Trump is obviously never going to unite anything. Both this statement and Miller's letter are extraordinary and historic rebukes to President Trump, which is why we chose to run them this week rather than our talking points.

I have watched this week's unfolding events, angry and appalled. The words "Equal Justice Under Law" are carved in the pediment of the United States Supreme Court. This is precisely what protesters are rightly demanding. It is a wholesome and unifying demand -- one that all of us should be able to get behind. We must not be distracted by a small number of lawbreakers. The protests are defined by tens of thousands of people of conscience who are insisting that we live up to our values -- our values as people and our values as a nation.

When I joined the military, some 50 years ago, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens -- much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside.

We must reject any thinking of our cities as a "battlespace" that our uniformed military is called upon to "dominate." At home, we should use our military only when requested to do so, on very rare occasions, by state governors. Militarizing our response, as we witnessed in Washington, D.C., sets up a conflict -- a false conflict -- between the military and civilian society. It erodes the moral ground that ensures a trusted bond between men and women in uniform and the society they are sworn to protect, and of which they themselves are a part. Keeping public order rests with civilian state and local leaders who best understand their communities and are answerable to them.

James Madison wrote in "Federalist 14" that "America united with a handful of troops, or without a single soldier, exhibits a more forbidding posture to foreign ambition than America disunited, with a hundred thousand veterans ready for combat." We do not need to militarize our response to protests. We need to unite around a common purpose. And it starts by guaranteeing that all of us are equal before the law.

Instructions given by the military departments to our troops before the Normandy invasion reminded soldiers that "The Nazi slogan for destroying us... was 'Divide and Conquer.' Our American answer is 'In Union there is Strength.'" We must summon that unity to surmount this crisis -- confident that we are better than our politics.

Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people -- does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership. We can unite without him, drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society. This will not be easy, as the past few days have shown, but we owe it to our fellow citizens; to past generations that bled to defend our promise; and to our children.

We can come through this trying time stronger, and with a renewed sense of purpose and respect for one another. The pandemic has shown us that it is not only our troops who are willing to offer the ultimate sacrifice for the safety of the community. Americans in hospitals, grocery stores, post offices, and elsewhere have put their lives on the line in order to serve their fellow citizens and their country. We know that we are better than the abuse of executive authority that we witnessed in Lafayette Square. We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution. At the same time, we must remember Lincoln's "better angels," and listen to them, as we work to unite.

Only by adopting a new path -- which means, in truth, returning to the original path of our founding ideals -- will we again be a country admired and respected at home and abroad.

Chris Weigant blogs at: [link:http://www.chrisweigant.com/2020/06/05/ftp577/ChrisWeigant.com]
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Posted by ChrisWeigant | Fri Jun 5, 2020, 09:13 PM (0 replies)

Friday Talking Points -- 100,000 Dead While Trump Fiddles With Twitter

Anyone "tired of all the winning" yet? Just asking....

In the same week America passed the grim milestone of 100,000 dead from the coronavirus pandemic, a black man was suffocated by a white police officer while three other cops stood by and either helped him commit this crime or did absolutely nothing to prevent it. Since then, there have been sometimes-violent protests in the streets of not only Minneapolis but in several other cities across the country. The dead man was accused of the crime of trying to use a fake $20 bill at a convenience store. The cops, acting as judge, jury, and executioner, provided him with a death sentence -- for the transgression of trying to pass a fake twenty.

So what has President Donald Trump been up to this week? Issuing an appeal for both calm and justice, as well as sympathizing with the families of the coronavirus victims? Nah. What Trump's been obsessed with instead is getting in an escalating war with Twitter. Because, obviously, Twitter is much more important to him than 100,000 dead from the virus or one dead black man in Minnesota. Never has a Nero metaphor been more apt, because Trump is now fiddling around with Twitter while America is burning.

We've been writing about the Twitter feud all week long, since it impacts the First Amendment in multiple ways. We wrote on Tuesday about the initial controversy, which arose because Trump was tweeting baseless conspiracy theories accusing Joe Scarborough of a murder he did not commit. The husband of the woman who died wrote a heartfelt letter to the head of Twitter begging him to take down Trump's tweets. Here's only part of his letter:

The frequency, intensity, ugliness, and promulgation of these horrifying lies ever increases on the internet. These conspiracy theorists, including most recently the President of the United States, continue to spread their bile and misinformation on your platform disparaging the memory of my wife and our marriage. President Trump on Tuesday tweeted to his nearly 80 million followers alluding to the repeatedly debunked falsehood that my wife was murdered by her boss, former U.S. Rep. Joe Scarborough. The son of the president followed and more directly attacked my wife by tweeting to his followers as the means of spreading this vicious lie.

Twitter refused to take down Trump's tweets. What Twitter did do was to slap a fact-checking label on two of Trump's other (and unrelated) tweets, espousing conspiracy theories about mail-in voting and voting fraud. Twitter did not take down the president's tweets, just provided links to accurate news stories debunking Trump's wild-eyed claims. Trump, of course, then freaked out.

Trump began playing the victim (something which he does on a regular basis, it's worth noting), and accusing Twitter of somehow censoring his free speech. This is a complete misreading of the First Amendment, which we pointed out on Wednesday. Trump then signed what will likely prove to be a meaningless executive order threatening Twitter with the revocation of a legal shield which protects them from being sued. This, as we pointed out yesterday, will likely have exactly the opposite effect on Twitter that Trump intended, because now they have every incentive to police Trump's tweets as strictly as possible.

Today, Twitter escalated matters, after Trump tweeted the following about the rioting in Minneapolis:

These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won't let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!

Whether Trump was aware of it or not, that "when the looting starts, the shooting starts" quote came from a racist Miami police chief in the 1960s. Some important context:

Then-Miami police chief Walter Headley first used that line in December 1967 to justify a brutal crackdown on crime against African-Americans in what were then called the slums. At the same news conference, he said that "85 percent of all violent crimes involve Negroes." The chief added: "We don't mind being accused of police brutality. They haven't seen anything yet."

Twitter covered Trump's tweet with a grey box and the message: "This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence," however, they did not remove Trump's tweet (you could still see it by clicking through the warning message). Miffed, Trump then had the official White House Twitter account repost his message. That too got the same warning label from Twitter.

Trump tried to walk this back, kind of:

Trump later claimed to clarify his tweet, saying "looting leads to shooting," noting there was a shooting in Minneapolis Wednesday and seven people shot in Louisville Thursday amid protests.... After the news conference, Trump's 2020 campaign also put out a statement blaming the media and Democrats for "purposefully misrepresenting" what Trump said in his tweet, claiming they were doing so for "political gain" and "ratings."

But nobody in their right mind believed this incredibly lame excuse, as Trump's meaning was pretty crystal-clear in his original message, just as it was in Miami, over fifty years ago.

Twitter, of course, still hasn't actually blocked or removed any of Trump's tweets. And they've got more steps up their own escalation ladder, should they choose to use them. They could delete one of Trump's tweets or even suspend his account for a week, for example -- penalties plenty of other Twitter users have suffered before. So we'll have to see where all of this ends up, but we have to say it is indeed heartening that Twitter is finally beginning to apply its own code of conduct to President Trump, because he's been getting a free ride for far too long.

Of course, it doesn't have to be like this. Here is how Joe Biden reacted to the video showing the cops executing a black man in broad daylight:

[Joe] Biden noted that Floyd's "final words" were "Let me breathe, I can't breathe," and added that this has "ripped open anew" the "wound" wrought by racism. Biden continued:

I urge the protesters to exercise their rights peacefully and safely. But people all across this country are enraged and rightly so. Every day African Americans go about their lives with constant anxiety and trauma of wondering, "Will I be next?" Sounds like an exaggeration but it's not. These tragedies, these injustices, cut at the very heart of our most sacred of beliefs: that all Americans, equal in rights and in dignity, are part of an ingrained systemic cycle of racism and oppression... throughout every part of our society.

And Biden concluded:

If we're not committed as a nation, with every ounce of purpose in our beings -- not just to binding up this wound in hope that somehow the scab once again will cover things over -- but to treat the underlying injury, we're never going to eventually heal.

Biden made an appeal for calm while also calling for justice in the case. In other words, exactly what you'd expect the president to do in such a situation. The contrast was pretty stark. And Biden took it one step further today:

Promising to bring real police reform if elected president, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said Friday that he had spoken with the family of George Floyd, the African-American man killed by Minneapolis police officers on Monday.

"The original sin of this country still stains our nation today," the former vice president said in a video message from his Delaware home, referring to more than 400 years of "Black men, Black women, Black children" whose potential was "wiped out unnecessarily."

"Everyday African-Americans go about their lives with constant anxiety and trauma wondering who will be next.... The anger and frustration and the exhaustion is undeniable."

Again, exactly what you'd expect any president with a shred of humanity to do. How hard is it to call the family and express condolences, after all?

Instead, Donald Trump spent the week not only fighting with Twitter, but also picking a needless fight with the governor of North Carolina, over whether the Republican National Convention will be allowed to go on as planned, even though Republicans don't want to follow any of those pesky guidelines to ensure safety.

Oh, and due to Congress demanding it, the Trump White House had to put out what they called a national plan for coronavirus testing, which, when boiled down, amounted to telling the states: "You're on your own!" Which they already knew, but now it's been officially codified -- the federal government has been a complete and total failure throughout the crisis, so don't expect anything to change any time soon, folks!

And just to remind everyone that Donald Trump is not just a miserable failure on the domestic policy front alone, North Korea just announced that they're going to ramp up their nuclear arsenal. All that glad-handling between Trump and Kim Jong Un was, in a word, meaningless. Donald Trump has done absolutely nothing to constrain North Korea's nuclear program, other than exchange love notes with the world's worst dictator. Which, for Trump, is about par for the course.

Before we get to the main award, we've got to give at least an Honorable Mention to Joe Biden this week, for multiple reasons. First, his handling of the situation in Minnesota was exactly what Donald Trump is absolutely incapable of doing -- showing empathy and righteous indignation that these things continue to happen in America.

But that's not all. Team Biden also has been doing a very good job of provoking Donald Trump in their recent ads, especially one that showed Trump playing golf while the coronavirus death toll climbed towards 100,000. This really got under Trump's skin, as it was designed to do. Trump's tweetstorm in response was truly deranged, as Trump lashed out at Obama for also playing golf, as well as totally unrelated nonsense. This, of course, gave the media the opportunity to point out all the times Trump criticized Obama for playing golf while president, including statements like: "When you're president, you sort of say, 'I'm going to give it up for a couple of years and I'm going to really focus on the job'," and: "Barack Obama plays golf to escape work while America goes down the drain." HuffPost also cheerfully pointed out that, after three years in office, Trump "has already spent 270% more days on the golf course than Obama had at the same point in his first term."

Impressively, Team Biden's ad was deployed almost immediately (last weekend, right after Trump golfed), showing a speed that will be crucial as the campaign heats up. And that wasn't the only time they taunted Trump this week. Biden pointed out what both he and Donald Trump tweeted on one day in October last year. Biden: "We are not prepared for a pandemic. Trump has rolled back progress President Obama and I made to strengthen global health security. We need leadership that builds public trust, focuses on real threats, and mobilizes the world to stop outbreaks before they reach our shores." Seems prophetic now, doesn't it? Meanwhile, President Donald Trump was tweeting to the head of Apple (or as he calls him, "Tim Apple" ) the following important message: "To Tim: The Button on the IPhone was FAR better than the Swipe!" So we have to say Joe Biden's campaign seems like they're on the ball, when it comes to poking the bear with a very large stick.

But this week, we've got to give the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award to Minnesota Governor Tim Walz and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, for their handling of the crisis. Once the video was made public, Frey immediately addressed the public with real emotion, stating that the four officers involved had already been fired. That happened almost immediately after the video surfaced -- unlike other mayors who have delayed making such a move for days, weeks, and even months. By the end of the week, the officer who had killed George Floyd by kneeling on his neck for almost nine whole minutes had been arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. That didn't happen soon enough for many people, but it happened a whole lot quicker than in other similar situations.

The Minnesota governor also shares in this award, because after state police arrested a black/Latino CNN reporter -- while he was on the air broadcasting -- for no discernable reason whatsoever (the reporter can be heard identifying himself as a member of the media to the police and asking where the cops wanted them to move to -- in complete contradiction with what the cops said about the arrest later), Governor Walz issued perhaps the best apology from a politician we've ever heard. Here is the full text of what Walz had to say:

I also want to address an issue and this one is on me and I will own it. Earlier this morning, when this mission was carried out under my direction to re-secure the Third Precinct -- to do so in a manner which I am proud of how it was executed by this team, no injuries and no loss of life -- a reestablishment to put the fires out for those businesses, a CNN reporter, a crew, was arrested by the state patrol.

A few minutes after hearing that, I was on a call with CNN President Jeff Zucker, who demanded to know what happened. I take full responsibility, there is absolutely no reason something like this should happen. Calls were made immediately. This is a very public apology to that team; it should not happen.

And I want to be clear for those who are listening -- I think our Minnesota reporters know this -- I am a teacher by trade and I have spent my time as governor highlighting the need to be as transparent as possible and have the press here. I failed you last night in that. And it does not escape me that we are here on the catalyst that lit this spark by what happened with a police detainment of George Floyd and the idea that a reporter would have been taken while another police action was in play is inexcusable.

So to CNN, to the CNN team, to the journalists here, this is about having a plan, and that's what these folks are going to talk about. This is about having an aggressive approach to understanding what the community needs, to not coming in heavy-handed with them but to create space where the story can be told. In a situation like this, even if you're clearing an area, we have got to ensure that there is a safe spot for journalism to tell the story.

The issue here is trust. The community that's down there that's terrorized by this, if they see a reporter being arrested, their assumption is it's because something's going to happen that they don't want to be seen. And so that is unacceptable.

We will continue to strive to make sure that that accessibility is maintained. Not only that, the protection and security and safety of the journalists covering this is a top priority, not because it is a nice thing to do, because it is a key component of how we fix this. Sunshine, disinfectant and seeing what's happening has to be done.

That is how you apologize and accept the blame when something goes drastically wrong on your watch! As we said, we don't think we've ever heard a more sweeping and heartfelt apology from any politician anywhere at any time. Which is why both Mayor Frey and Governor Walz are the joint winners of this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award.

[Congratulate Governor Tim Walz on his official contact page, and Mayor Jacob Frey on his official contact page, to let them know you appreciate their efforts.]

Before we get to this week, we've got some old business we've got to take care of first. A few weeks ago we noted that the F.B.I. was looking at how Senator Dianne Feinstein's husband was trading stocks at the start of the pandemic, and this week they announced that they had in effect been cleared of any wrongdoing. We didn't actually give Feinstein an award (we reserved judgment), but we felt it was necessary to clear the record, since the F.B.I. cleared her name.

Our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week could also be classified as old business, since the event in question actually happened last Friday morning (instead of, technically, "during the week since this column last ran" ). Sometimes, in the frenzy of putting this column together, things slip through the cracks on Fridays. But when they're important, we feel it's worth revisiting.

Last Friday, Joe Biden appeared on the syndicated radio show "The Breakfast Club," with host Charlemagne Tha God. Biden, trying to wrap up the interview at the end, attempted to be amusing. Or folksy. Or something. Spoiler alert: it didn't go over well.

The line that got Biden into all the hot water was: "If you have a problem figuring out whether you're for me or Trump, then you ain't black."

Later that day, Biden profusely apologized: "I was much too cavalier. I know that the comments have come off like I was taking the African-American vote for granted. But nothing could be further from the truth. I shouldn't have been such a wise guy." No, Joe, you shouldn't.

Biden, of course, has a point. Black voters were the ones who saved his presidential candidacy from extinction, in the South Carolina primary. And in the most-recent Quinnipiac poll, black voters support Biden over Trump by a margin of 78 percent. Please note, that doesn't mean that 78 percent of black voters support him, it means the difference between Trump's support and Biden's support is almost 80 percent. Team Trump immediately tried to make all sorts of political hay over Biden's gaffe, but this is a long and steep climb for them, as the rest of the week painfully showed.

So even though it was an off-the-cuff attempt at a snappy line said on a morning radio show, Joe Biden should have known better than to wade into the troubled waters of a white man declaring who is and who is not "black." And for that, even though it happened more than a week ago, Joe Biden is sadly our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week.

[Our blanket policy is not to link to campaign websites, so you'll have to search Joe Biden's contact information out yourself, sorry.]

Volume 576 (5/29/20)

Once again, a mixed selection of possible Democratic talking points this week. As always, use responsibly!

Except that's what George Floyd didn't get

Even Mitch McConnell couldn't explain away that video of the Minneapolis police.

"Mitch McConnell issued a statement about the Minneapolis police caught on video this week, stating that the facts are 'pretty obvious' and 'absolutely horrendous.' But in an unintended bit of irony, he spoke about what should happen next for the policemen in question:

We have a way of dealing with crime in this country, it's called prosecution and conviction. Everybody is entitled to the protections of the court system, even people who apparently -- if you see what happened -- look pretty darn guilty.

That is indeed how it is supposed to work. Except for the glaring fact that George Floyd didn't get any prosecution or conviction at all -- instead, he got nothing short of a summary execution for the crime of trying to use a fake twenty-dollar bill."

Taylor Swift chimes in

OK, she's not exactly Walter Cronkite, but she does indeed have a pretty significant following in Middle America. Swift reacted to Donald Trump's tweet today with scathing indignation (and a promise):

After stoking the fires of white supremacy and racism your entire presidency, you have the nerve to feign moral superiority before threatening violence? "When the looting starts the shooting starts"??? We will vote you out in November.

Just stop

Let's not forget what started the war on Twitter, because it is still important.

"Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger reacted to Donald Trump fanning the flames of conspiracy theory -- by accusing Joe Scarborough of a murder he did not commit -- by begging Donald Trump to just quit it. Kinzinger tweeted: 'Completely unfounded conspiracy. Just stop. Stop spreading it, stop creating paranoia. It will destroy us.' He did not specify whether 'us' referred to all of America, or just the Republican Party, but his message to the president was pretty clear."

Yet another Trump pandemic failure

This got lost in the shuffle this week, but it's worth pointing out.

"When the drug remdesivir was identified as a treatment for COVID-19, the maker of the drug donated 607,000 vials of the medication to the federal government. The Trump administration tried to distribute it in early May, but as with pretty much everything else they've done during the crisis, they screwed it up, big time. They sent it to the wrong hospitals, they sent it to hospitals with no ICU department, they sent it to facilities that didn't have the refrigeration it needed. So these shipments all had to be returned to the government, because the Trump White House distributed it all without even bothering to consult with the hospitals themselves. This doesn't exactly fill me with confidence that they'll be able to handle the much bigger task of distributing a vaccine, when it becomes available."

No correction necessary

If the numbers are going to be bad, just ignore them!

"For the first time since the 1970s, the White House has announced it will not be issuing a mid-year economic projection this summer. For decades now, the White House issues a budget proposal in February and then updates it with a 'mid-session review' which has more-recent economic numbers for Congress to consider. Obviously, those numbers are not going to be politically useful for Donald Trump, if they were released in July or August as usual, so they've just decided to bury their heads in the sand and refuse to admit that anything has changed in the American economy since February. As far as the White House is concerned, if you don't like the numbers, then just pretend they don't exist."

Say what?

Tell us what you really think of us all....

"Senior White House economic advisor Kevin Hassett was interviewed on CNN last week, and he used a rather astonishing expression. You may have seen this guy -- he's the one that always has a grin on his face when speaking of the economy, no matter how bad the news actually is -- as when he spoke of the unemployment rate rising 'north of 20 percent' a few weeks ago. This time, he was predicting that the economy would bounce right back any day now, stating: 'Our human capital stock is ready to get back to work.' Excuse me? Human capital stock?!? As many pointed out on social media, 'human capital stock' is a phrase an erudite slave-owner might have used two centuries ago. And this guy is the senior economic advisor to Donald Trump?"

Tuna on toast

One can only hope.

"Yet another group of Republicans is launching an ad campaign to try to influence the presidential election -- by defeating Donald Trump. Joining the multiple other anti-Trump GOP groups is Republican Voters Against Trump, who just started running ads this week. The ads are comprised of statements of Republican voters on why they've either soured on Trump or never supported him in the first place. The group already has over 100 such statements, but the best one so far came from Jack Spielman, who voted for Trump last time but now calls him 'toxic.' Spielman doesn't mince words, stating boldly: 'I'd vote for a tuna fish sandwich before I'd vote for Donald Trump again.' Sounds good to me. Let me get that on toast. To go."

Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
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Friday Talking Points -- Trump's Mask-querade

Proof has finally emerged that President Donald Trump has actually put a mask on his face. Bizarrely, this proof came from a non-official photographer instead of from an official media or White House source. Because the one thing Trump wants to avoid at all costs is ever setting any kind of good example for anyone.

You really couldn't make this stuff up if you tried. A president in the midst of a national crisis doesn't just ignore what the experts are telling all Americans to do, but openly defies them every chance he gets. Trump not only refuses to wear a mask, but this week also announced he was taking a drug that has now been shown to have no use against the coronavirus but comes with an increased chance of death for those taking it. Nothing like setting a good bad example, Mister President!

The real irony in all of this is that if Trump had shown even the slightest inclination towards either setting a good example himself or at the very least shown a shred of empathy for those families affected by the pandemic, his job approval ratings would likely have spiked up above 50 percent for the first time ever. Trump's refusal to show any sort of personal leadership in a time of crisis (which he even brags about: "I didn't want to give the press the pleasure of seeing [Trump in a mask at the Ford plant]" ) is having exactly the opposite effect he thinks. This was pointed out after his visit by the Washington Post, who noted that the visit: "for any other president would serve as a feel-good story about leadership, corporate nimbleness and the production of lifesaving medical gear. Instead, his mask-querade dominated news coverage." [Which, obviously, is where we got out column's title this week, we should mention.] Trump's job approval ratings are heading down, while 49 of 50 governors now have approval ratings better than Trump -- in most cases, a lot better, in fact.

As usual, Trump shoulders no blame for any mistakes made, either. While a study was released this week showing that tens of thousands of Americans would still be alive today if Trump had only acted faster and more decisively at the start of the virus (36,000 if he had acted a week earlier, and 54,000 if he had acted two weeks earlier), Trump dismisses it as a "political hit job," because everything is always about him, of course. When a reporter pointed out that the U.S. has only four percent of the Earth's population but 30 percent of coronavirus deaths, and asked Trump what he would have done differently, Trump responded: "Well, nothing." Because he really thinks his response was perfect (or slightly better than perfect).

But let's just focus on last week. Trump's refusal to wear a mask during all of his visit to the Ford factory (where he strangely praised noted anti-Semite Henry Ford as having "good bloodlines" for some reason) was roundly denounced by Michigan's attorney general, who said afterwards: "He is a petulant child who refuses to follow the rules. This is not a joke."

Earlier in the week, Trump stunned the press corps with his surprise announcement that he's been taking hydroxychloroquine. The White House physician put out a statement where he notably refused to say he had prescribed the drug to Trump, leaving many to wonder whether (A) the president was flat-out lying to the country about taking a possibly-dangerous drug, or (B) actually was taking a possibly-dangerous drug, on a whim. Neither one should fill anyone with confidence in his leadership skills, obviously. This announcement was denounced from a rather unusual source: Neil Cavuto, on Fox News:

That was stunning. The president of the United States, just to acknowledge that he is taking a hydroxychloroquine, a drug that [was] meant really to treat malaria and lupus. The president is insistent that it has enormous benefits for patients either trying to prevent or already have COVID-19. The fact of the matter is, though, when the president said, "What have you got to lose?" a number of studies, those are certainly vulnerable in the population have one thing to lose. Their lives.... If you are in a risky population here and you are taking this as a preventative treatment to ward off the virus, or in a worst-case scenario, you are dealing with the virus and you are in this vulnerable population, it will kill you. I cannot stress enough -- this will kill you. So, again, whatever benefits the president says this has and certainly it is had for those suffering from malaria, dealing with lupus, this is a leap that that should not be taken casually by those watching at home or assuming well, the president of the United States says it's okay. Even the F.D.A. was very cautious about this unless in a clinical trial safely and deliberately watched. I only make this not to make a political point here, but a life-and-death point. Be very, very careful.

Trump, of course, lit into both Cavuto and Fox News immediately afterwards. But Nancy Pelosi had the best response, as she sounded downright worried (heh) about the state of Trump's health: "I would rather he not be taking something that has not been approved by the scientists, especially in his age group and in his, shall we say, weight group: 'Morbidly obese,' they say."

Trump reacted with some Grade-A projection, calling Pelosi a "sick woman" who had "a lot of mental problems." Pelosi shot back with some more faux concern: "I didn't say anything about the president. I gave him a dose of his own medicine. I was only quoting what doctors had said about him and I was being factual in a very sympathetic way. I said, he's our president, we don't want our president taking something that could be dangerous, as the scientists have said. If he takes offense at that, well, I could take offense at a lot of things, but they don't mean that much to me."

Heh. "Sympathetic." That's a good one, Madam Speaker!

But for a change, let's take a look at some election news. Remember a few weeks ago when Trump's campaign launched an outreach effort to minorities? Let's just check in and see how that's going, shall we?

Nearly three months into the pandemic, administration officials are still trying to formulate a comprehensive plan for helping minority communities -- particularly African Americans and Latinos -- hit disproportionately hard by the virus. The mounting concerns about inaccessible testing and high hospitalization rates are highlighting a gaping hole in Trump's pandemic response -- worries that also threaten to ricochet through the president's 2020 reelection operation six months out from Election Day.

Trump campaign officials, who have spent months investing in outreach to black and Latino voters ahead of November, now face the difficult task of courting communities that have been ravaged by the virus and are frustrated with what they perceive as a lackluster response from the administration.

. . .

"Secretary [Ben] Carson was supposed to take some initiative to deal with this, but I haven't heard anything since then. It's hard to be critical of their strategy excluding racial disparity issues when there doesn't seem to be any strategy at all," said Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), who participated in a phone call with Vice President Mike Pence and House Democrats last month where concerns about underserved populations repeatedly came up.

. . .

Trump has also repeatedly highlighted the $30 billion of Paycheck Protection funds that was set aside for smaller loan recipients, including minority-owned businesses. During a Fox News town hall on May 3, the president said he would release a report within two weeks outlining further plans to address the "totally disproportional effect" COVID-19 has had on racial minorities.

A White House spokesman did not respond to multiple requests for comment about the status of such a report.

So what is the Trump campaign doing to help support minorities? Well, not much that they can brag about, apparently:

A Facebook video posted by the campaign last week touted the president's purchase of 250 burritos from a Latino-owned restaurant during an event Trump hosted at an N95 mask factory in Phoenix, Ariz.

Like we said, you just can't make this stuff up, folks.

Speaking of Arizona, Trump apparently is concerned about Republican chances to hold a Senate seat there (as he should be):

Senior political advisers to President Donald Trump warned Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Thursday that Republican Sen. Martha McSally is falling dangerously behind in the critical swing state of Arizona.

Trump's campaign team was meeting with the president at the White House to discuss the state of play in a handful of battleground states. Toward the end of the meeting, Trump pulled McConnell, who was at the White House to meet with him on another matter, into the Roosevelt Room. The discussion turned to Arizona, where recent polling has shown Trump and McSally trailing.

. . .

The Senate race is a particular trouble spot. As Senate Republicans try to protect their majority, McSally has emerged as one of the party's most vulnerable incumbents. One survey released this week showed McSally trailing [Mark] Kelly by 13 points.

Kelly, of course, is the astronaut husband of Gabby Giffords, and so far he's outraised McSally $31 million to $18 million.

In Georgia, another GOP senator who was named to the office (rather than elected) also may be in trouble. Senator Kelly Loeffler is fighting off criticism for her stock trades at the start of the pandemic, and her husband (who just happens to be the chair of the New York Stock Exchange) just donated a cool million bucks to Trump's super PAC (perhaps to avoid Trump endorsing her primary challenger). So we'll see how that goes.

Lindsey Graham is taking some heat in his own re-election race down in South Carolina. An anti-Graham group just released a particularly brutal ad against him which does nothing more than compare his remarks about Trump from a few years ago to what he's been saying now. Jimmy Williams, a senior advisor to the PAC responsible for the ad, summed up what their goal currently is: "We're simply tired of his snarling, revengeful, dirty payback politics down here and I promise you we will do whatever we legally can to make his last nine months in the U.S. Senate a miserable hell." So there's that to look forward to. From their ad, it seems they've made a good start already.

In a House race in California, the Republican Party is backing away from its own nominee as quickly as they can, after even more racist postings were brought to light from Ted Howze. Earlier, he tried to claim that his accounts had somehow been hacked, and that he wasn't responsible for the odious posts. Republicans looked the other way then, but now they've had enough. Here's the head of the California Republican Party: "Mr. Howze's social media posts recently revealed through news reports are disgraceful, disgusting and do not represent the values we hold or the party we are building." The chair of the committee to elect Republicans to the House chimed in as well: "These statements are unacceptable and not indicative of the Republican Party and what we are building here at the N.R.C.C. with our diverse slate of candidates." Kevin McCarthy removed him from the "Young Republicans" group and said of Howze: "The content in question on Mr. Howze's social media channels is disappointing and disturbing. Bigotry and hateful rhetoric -- in any form -- have no place in the Republican Party. These posts are unacceptable and do not reflect the Ted Howze that I have briefly interacted with."

Better tell all of that to Alaska Representative Ben Carpenter (a Republican, naturally), who earlier in the week emailed all 39 of his colleagues a screed against having to wear health-screening stickers to the statehouse: "If my sticker falls off, do I get a new one or do I get public shaming too? Are the stickers available as a yellow Star of David?" When called on his words by several in his own party, Carpenter responded by (are you sitting down?) defending Adolf Hitler. No, really:

Can you or I -- can we even say it is totally out of the realm of possibility that COVID-19 patients will be rounded up and taken somewhere?... People want to say Hitler was a white supremacist. No. He was fearful of the Jewish nation, and that drove him into some unfathomable atrocities.

Hoo boy.

OK, just a few more things to touch upon before we move along with the weekly awards.

Donald Trump is getting close to bowing to a lot of pressure to extend the deployment of the National Guard past 89 days. That may sound like an odd time period, but it was designed for a purpose. If the Guard deploys for 90 days or more, they get benefits like the G.I. Bill -- so Trump cut their initial time short by one day to prevent that. But now he's getting a lot of pushback, so maybe he'll be forced to do the right thing. Eventually.

It's actually been hard to keep count of how many inspectors general have now been fired by Trump, and while most of the media noticed the one canned at the State Department, few also took note that the I.G. at the Department of Transportation was also ousted.

Speaking of keeping count, we're now up to 38.6 million American workers who have filed for unemployment since the pandemic began. And we're only days away from hitting 100,000 dead Americans.

And one more morbid note: a new documentary (AKA Jane Roe) is ready for release which interviews "Jane Roe" of Roe v. Wade, shortly before she died. Norma McCorvey made the news back in the 1990s, when the anti-abortion side "converted" her and used her as an anti-abortion spokeswoman. But in what she herself calls a "deathbed confession," she lets everyone know what really was going on:

In the final third of director Nick Sweeney's 79-minute documentary, featuring many end-of-life reflections from McCorvey -- who grew up queer, poor, and was sexually abused by a family member her mother sent her to live with after leaving reform school -- the former Jane Roe admits that her later turn to the anti-abortion camp as a born-again Christian was "all an act."

"This is my deathbed confession," she chuckles, sitting in a chair in her nursing home room, on oxygen. Sweeney asks McCorvey, "Did [the evangelicals] use you as a trophy?" "Of course," she replies. "I was the Big Fish." "Do you think you would say that you used them?" Sweeney responds. "Well," says McCorvey, "I think it was a mutual thing. I took their money and they took me out in front of the cameras and told me what to say. That's what I'd say." She even gives an example of her scripted anti-abortion lines. "I'm a good actress," she points out. "Of course, I'm not acting now."

This is a very sad story of someone who absolutely sold out (to the tune of around a half-million dollars) to be a paid shill for a cause she did not believe in at all. But it's a story that really needs to be told, to nullify all the things she made the news for saying, back then.

Before we get to our main award, we have to at least give a Honorable Mention to Nancy Pelosi. Not only did she get under Trump's skin in a big way this week, but she's been busy doing her day job as well.

Last week, she passed a $3 trillion relief measure, which Mitch McConnell is ignoring. However, time may not be as much on Mitch's side as he likes to think, because his own Republicans are getting increasingly nervous about their chances in the fall if they are seen as obstructing needed money in a time of crisis. They're specifically worried about their chances in battleground states, and they have good reason to do so. Which is why some of them are already breaking with McConnell. The pressure Pelosi is putting on them is only going to increase as more time goes by. As she is happy to point out:

"Some of the members say, 'Let's take a pause.' Let's take a pause? Do you think this virus is taking a pause?" Pelosi said in a floor speech, making a final pitch to her caucus ahead of the vote.

"Do you think that the rent takes a pause? Do you think that putting food on the table or the hunger that comes if you can't takes a pause?"

While speaking about the money in the bill to ensure mail-in voting across the country, Pelosi made a similar point:

She argued that Republicans misunderstand what's going on, ignoring that there is wide bipartisan support to allow people to vote without risking their health. She said the Republicans' opposition is in keeping with their efforts to make it harder to vote. "This is for the people, no need to be afraid of the people," she said. "That's just another insecurity." She added that Republican opposition to the funding is "in keeping with their voter suppression in general."

. . .

On the Heroes Act, she expressed confidence that McConnell would eventually come to the table. Nevertheless, for now she argues, "He has decided to obstruct."

But our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week goes to Barack Obama, for reminding us all what we once had in the Oval Office. He delivered two commencement speeches (remotely) last weekend, one of which was broadcast in primetime by all the major networks. He took a few mild shots at Donald Trump (without actually naming him -- "This pandemic has fully, finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they're doing" ), but that wasn't the most notable part of his speeches (to us, at any rate). As we wrote earlier in the week:

This weekend, however, Obama jumped into the fight in a big way. This is a good sign for Democrats, for a number of reasons. First, it reminds everyone what an intelligent and rational president looks and sounds like. Remember when presidents spoke in grammatically-correct and logically-constructed sentences? Boy, those were the days! Remember when presidents were actually capable of showing empathy? We can return to those halcyon days if we want. This message will be reinforced each and every time Obama speaks for the next six months, no matter what he is actually talking about.

It really wasn't that long ago we had a sane and rational president. Every time Obama speaks, we're all going to be reminded of this fact, and the reality that we could soon have that once again. Which is why Barack Obama was clearly the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week last week.

[Barack Obama is now a private citizen, and it is our blanket policy not to provide contact information about such persons, so you'll have to seek his contact info out yourself if you'd like to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]

Meanwhile, two New York politicians got downright Trumpian. That's a nasty thing to say of a Democrat, but sadly this shoe seems to fit rather well.

Andrew Cuomo has been lauded in the press as being the model Democratic governor during the pandemic. But both he and New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio really deserve some blame for dragging their own feet at the start of the crisis. While other states had already moved to shut down and shelter in place, both New York Democrats resisted such moves. They both were quoted as essentially echoing Trump's "It's going to be no big deal" rhetoric, right up until the day when they did decide it was time to act. That study that showed that 36,000 lives could have been saved by moving one week earlier in March also pointed out that 17,000 of these lives saved would have lived in the New York City area. So here's how they reacted to this news:

The findings, first reported by The New York Times, revealed what many New Yorkers have come to believe over the past two months: Cuomo and de Blasio, two Democrats who have been unable to even present the same death count amid long-standing bickering, dragged their feet during the most dire crisis either has faced in their careers and as a result, thousands of New Yorkers died.

But both leaders on Thursday insisted they didn't know the extent or source of the spread, expressing regret for their ignorance but not the timing of their decisions.

Cuomo, who tends to dismiss retrospective analysis as "Monday morning quarterbacking," has repeatedly referred questions about his responses to the data by which he says he makes his decisions.

No one reported that the virus was moving to Europe from China late last year, he said Thursday, and if the true extent of the spread was known, travel bans from both regions would have been appropriate as early as Dec. 31.

"Who should have known?," he told reporters at his briefing in Manhattan. "It's above my paygrade as the governor of one state, but what federal agency? What international health organization? I don't know. It's not what I do; it's not my responsibility. But someone has to answer that question."

De Blasio likewise placed blame on the novelty of the disease and the fact that no one had a playbook for its response.

"I wish we had known so much more in January, February, the beginning of March. I wish we had the testing that would have told us what was going on," de Blasio told reporters Thursday. "It's very painful to think about, if we had had the testing we needed, everything we could have done differently. Or if we had known then the things we know now, what we would have been able to do for people. It's horrible."

As we said, it's pretty hard to call "it's not my responsibility" as anything short of "Trumpian," at this point. Nothing like passing that buck, eh?

For refusing to even admit that they might have personally borne some blame for waiting too long to act, both Governor Cuomo and Mayor De Blasio are our hands-down winners this week for the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award.

[Contact New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on his official contact page and New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio on his official contact page, to let them know what you think of their actions.]

Volume 575 (5/22/20)

A mixed bag this week, with some attempts at comedy (at least that's what we have to assume they were) for everyone in the middle.

What the heck is going on, Steve?

This story needs a lot more attention than it initially got.

"Congress passed $500 billion to bail out businesses and local governments weeks ago, because there was an immediate need for such help. Since then, however, the Treasury has only disbursed a paltry $37.5 billion -- less than ten percent of the funds. Funds for the airline industry have not been disbursed. Nothing has gone to local governments at all -- the only money made available was to purchase corporate debt, in fact. This is an outrage, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin needs to be held responsible for it. Why has he dithered for months instead of getting that money out there as Congress intended?"

Let's just hide the data!

You just knew this was coming, didn't you?

"More and more, it seems that Republicans at both the state and federal level have decided to misrepresent or censor data about the coronavirus pandemic. This needs to stop, and it needs to stop immediately. In Georgia, they've decided they can just rearrange the calendar to make the numbers look better. Florida just fired the woman who put together their public health website because she said she refused to 'manually change data' about the pandemic on the site 'to drum up support for the plan to reopen.' And, according to The Atlantic, the C.D.C. is now 'overstating the country's ability to test people who are sick with COVID-19' by 'combining test results that diagnose current coronavirus infections with test results that measure whether someone has ever had the virus.' So as far as Republicans are concerned, if you don't like the data, just change it until it looks better politically for you. Presto change-o!"

Florida election fraud found!

Too, too funny.

"Once again, a 17-month in-depth investigation into voter fraud has found exactly what every single other study of the subject has ever found. Remember the 2018 election in Florida for governor and senator? Donald Trump whined about "fraud" in this election, in two Democrat-dominated counties. He even promised: 'Don't worry, Florida -- I am sending much better lawyers to expose the FRAUD!' So the state took 17 months to investigate, and they just released their findings. Out of 709,180 ballots cast in Broward County, the new Republican supervisor of elections found precisely '21 cases of people who illegally voted twice and one instance of a noncitizen who voted unlawfully.' That works out to 0.003 percent fraud. Mind you -- that's not three-tenths of one percent, that is actually only three-thousandths of one percent. Again, just like every other investigation and study ever done on voting fraud. The problem simply does not exist to the level where it could have the slightest effect on any election, period."

Barr cracks a joke

That's what it must have been, right?

"Attorney General William Barr apparently is trying to be a comedian. While announcing that he wouldn't actually be investigating Barack Obama or Joe Biden over the non-existent Trump 'Obamagate' fantasy scandal, he got in a knee-slapper:

Barr insisted Monday the United States cannot allow its electoral process 'to be hijacked by efforts to drum up criminal investigations of either candidate.'

Believing William Barr is a steadfast defender of the nonpoliticization of the Justice Department is the funniest thing I've heard all week. I mean... William Barr? Seriously?"

Karl Rove takes the mic

Karl Rove got in on the open-mic action as well, it seems, in reaction to Obama's digs on Trump during his speeches last weekend:

"Karl Rove apparently wouldn't know irony if it smacked him in the face. Here he is expressing his outrage at Barack Obama:

It is so unseemly for a former president to take the virtual commencement ceremony for a series of historically black colleges and universities and turn it into a political drive-by shooting. This is a moment where these young graduates that could be inspired to a life of service, to recognize that life is going to bring challenges and how we handle the challenges it's going to demonstrate our character, there are lots of positive messages that the former president could have delivered.

OK, I'll wait for you to stop laughing... I mean, Karl Rove lecturing us on demonstrating character? Or drive-by political shootings, for that matter? I defy Rove to name me one single example of President Trump 'inspiring' anyone 'to a life of service.' He can't, because Trump never has. And he really ought to take a look at some of the things Dick Cheney said about Barack Obama while he was in office if he wants to see what a 'drive-by shooting' looks like."

Trump gets in on the comedy action

This question's going to come up a lot, because it is so funny watching Trump try to explain why we should all do as he says, not as he does.

"Donald Trump really hates it when Democrats vote by mail, it seems. Which is downright hilarious because he votes by mail himself. Which is impossible to reconcile, really. But it didn't stop Trump from trying, once again: 'We don't want them to do mail-in ballots because it's going to lead to total election fraud. Now if somebody has to mail it in because they're sick, or, by the way, because they live in the White House and they have to vote in Florida and they won't be in Florida, if there's a reason for it, that's okay.' So everyone just has to move to the White House in order for their mail-in ballot to meet with Trump's approval? That's pretty funny. I've never seen a worse example of: 'Do what I say and not what I do,' personally."

Where was the coverage?

So much for that so-called "liberal media."

"You know, for the past month or so whenever ten or twenty yahoos gather in front of a statehouse somewhere to yell about reopening the economy, there are dozens of television cameras rolling, to capture what the media has deemed very important protests. But when a protest is staged with body bags left in front of the White House, not a single network bothered to give it any prominence on the evening news. During a nationwide 'Day Of Mourning,' activists held a mock funeral with 200 cars that started at the residence of Mitch McConnell, drove past the Capitol, and wound up at the White House where body bags with signs reading 'Trump Lies, People Die' on the sidewalk. Religious leaders delivered eulogies and others gave speeches about lost loved ones. And none of it was interesting enough to make the evening news headlines. Maybe they should wave around some assault weapons next time, because that's the only thing that seems to get the media's attention."

Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
Follow Chris on Twitter: ChrisWeigant
Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com
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Friday Talking Points -- Trump Dumbfounded At How Science Works

President Donald Trump seems unclear on a few basic scientific and medical concepts. This isn't really news, of course, since Trump seems unclear on a whole host of things each and every day. But this week's comments on coronavirus testing were more than just a little bit astonishing.

Here is Trump, during a visit to a mask factory, while refusing to wear a mask (even though everyone he met were wearing masks), talking about America's testing efforts (which are now at roughly a third of where the White House promised we would be by the end of March, by the way):

America has now conducted its 10 millionth test. That's as of yesterday afternoon. Ten million tests we gave. Ten million. And CVS has just committed to establish up to 1,000 new coronavirus testing sites by the end of this month, and the 10 millionth will go up very, very rapidly.

That last bit is hard to translate from Trump's broken English, since it is unclear whether he is saying "the total tests done will go up very, very rapidly" (misstating "10 million" as "10 millionth" ), or whether he was predicting that 10,000,000 testing sites would be open by the end of the month (which is obviously just not going to happen). But we'll give him the benefit of the doubt, we suppose. Trump continued:

"And don't forget, we have more cases than anybody in the world," he added. "But why? Because we do more testing. When you test, you have a case. When you test, you find something is wrong with people. If we didn't do any testing, we would have very few cases."

Trump said the news media had refused to report his "common sense" explanation for the country's high case numbers. He repeated the misleading claim that the U.S. has tested more people than other countries, sidestepping the reality that testing as a share of the population is lower than in other countries.

"So we have the best testing in the world," Trump said. "It could be the testing's, frankly, overrated? Maybe it is overrated. But whatever they start yelling, we want more, we want more. You know, they always say we want more, we want more because they don't want to give you credit."

Let's ignore Trump's pathetic begging for praise at the end there, and move on to the two gigantic errors in those statements. The first of these is that testing is "frankly, overrated." Overrated? By whom? For what possible reason? Testing is testing -- it is the gathering of scientific data for both individual use ("Do I have the virus, Doc?" ) and for the statisticians who are tracking the infection's spread, both nationally and regionally. On what particular scale is either of these things "rated"? It is what it is, no more and no less.

But the other jaw-droppingly ignorant thing Trump said is even more worrisome: "If we didn't do any testing, we would have very few cases." This statement was resoundingly mocked (as it so richly deserved to be) on social media. Representative Don Beyer tweeted:

The United States has:

- 4% of the global population

- 32% of global COVID-19 cases

- 28% of global COVID-19 deaths

But even more pithy was S. E. Cupp's reaction:

If I close my eyes, you can't see me.

If the United States didn't do any testing, then it is undoubtedly true that the official numbers of cases would not be "very few" but, in fact, zero. No test results, no official cases -- easy peasy! But, of course, the virus wouldn't care about the official numbers. It would go right on infecting people, because that's what it does. So if we had no tests at all, we'd still have lots of sick people infected with COVID-19, but we just wouldn't know about them. In fact, we'd have millions more infected, because if we hadn't done any tests at all then we wouldn't have shut the country down as we did, and the virus would have spread like wildfire.

Trump also seems clueless when it comes to understanding how people get sick. This is kind of surprising because it was reported previous to the coronavirus outbreak that Trump was a "germophobe." But apparently that was wrong, because he really doesn't seem to understand how sickness travels. Think this is exaggeration? Here is Trump from last week, explaining how two people in the White House had just tested positive:

This is why the whole concept of tests aren't necessarily great. The tests are perfect, but something can happen between a test where it's good and then something happens.... She was tested very recently and tested negative, and then today, I guess for some reason, she tested positive.

Seriously? "...and then something happens"? "...and then today, I guess for some reason, she tested positive"???

Trump seems to believe that (1) once you test negative, then you are somehow immune from that point on, and (2) people get infected with the virus because "something happens" and then "for some reason," you test positive. The levels of stupidity and ignorance necessary to say something like that are staggering, even for Trump. After all, he's been absolutely immersed in this crisis for months now, with daily briefings from doctors and scientists, and he still doesn't know how viruses infect people? And he thinks that the tests are the problem with the numbers going up? If he closes his eyes, then you can't see him -- yeah, that's the ticket!

November can't come fast enough.

One particular quote from an article in the Financial Times this week seems pertinent:

An administration official says advising Trump is like "bringing fruits to the volcano" -- Trump being the lava source. "You're trying to appease a great force that's impervious to reason," says the official.

If you, like many, are now at the "if I doesn't laugh, I thinks I'm a-gonna cry" stage with our president, we hereby offer up this interlude, a spoof video of the REM song "Losing My Religion," titled "Losing My Civilians" (sample lyrics: "I thought that I heard you coughing... I don't care if you get it. Oh, no, I've said too much." ). Maybe the next REM song someone will parody will be "It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)"? It certainly seems appropriate, at this point.

We'll try to get through the other news of the week in abbreviated fashion, since we've got a lot else to cover this week.

Trump tried to have a "mission accomplished" moment at the White House with banners reading: "America leads the world in testing" behind him. Twitter users had some other suggestions for the banners, such as "...in deaths" and one amusing one which changed the entire text to: "Future home of Joe Biden."

This briefing didn't end well, either. Donald Trump told a Chinese-American reporter "you should ask China" in response to her question about why Trump was treating the pandemic as a "global competition." Then Trump called her question "nasty," refused to let the next female reporter that he himself had just called on ask him a question, and ended up by turning around and angrily storming out of the briefing. The media barely even noticed, even though this was incredibly outrageous behavior from a U.S. president.

Both Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Rick Bright testified before congressional hearings this week, which began the long process of uncovering all the details of just how monumental a screwup the Trump pandemic response has been, to date. Bright is the whistleblower who lost his job because he refused to get on Trump's hydroxychloroquine bandwagon, of course. He made this chilling prediction in his opening remarks: "Without clear planning and implementation of the steps that I and other experts have outlined, 2020 will be darkest winter in modern history."

Trump responded by getting annoyed at both of them, because they are saying things he firmly believes are not reality. Which, these days, is about par for the course for Trump.

What else has Trump been up to? It seems the company he's partnering with in Indonesia is digging up a graveyard -- without the permission of all the families involved -- in order to build a new Trump resort. On the site in question, a theme park is planned. You just can't make this stuff up, folks. Last weekend, Trump tweeted out an ad for one of his golf resorts reopening on his official account, because of course he did.

There was some Trump court news this week, as the Supreme Court finally heard the cases dealing with Trump's tax returns, and an appeals court revived the emoluments case against Trump's D.C. hotel. The Supreme Court decision will be handed down by June, so that'll be interesting (unless they somehow find a way to punt it back to the lower courts, which is always a possibility).

The economic news continues to be terrible, with another three million people filing for unemployment last week, bringing the two-month total to a frightening 36.5 million people. Retail sales for April were down a sharp 16.4 percent, which was much higher than economists had anticipated. This was led by retail clothing stores, which were down a whopping 78.8 percent. On the medical front, we're fast approaching 1.5 million cases of COVID-19 in this country, and 90,000 deaths.

Let's see, what else? Jared Kushner just said he is "not sure I can commit" to holding the November election on time, apparently unaware that he does not have some sort of signoff responsibility for it. And Eric Trump amusingly tweeted: "The chips are starting to crumble!" Twitter had a field day with this, with people posted mangled metaphors galore ("Yeah, well, people will do crazy things when the cookies are down..." ). A real chip off the old blockhead, if you will.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is (as of this writing) pushing forward for a vote on two important things: another coronavirus aid bill, and changing House rules for the next 45 days to allow for proxy voting, to avoid having to force all members back for each floor vote. Republicans, of course, are blocking both.

The proxy vote move would indeed be historic because it would be the first time that House members weren't required to be physically present to hold votes. But it is obviously an emergency measure with a built-in sunset date (although Pelosi could extend it if circumstances warranted). So it really shouldn't be all that controversial or partisan.

But the aid package is a lot more political. Pelosi was told in the previous round that she had to wait on all the Democratic priorities because the bill had to be hustled through immediately. The Senate tried to jam their partisan bill through, but Pelosi at least put on the brakes and removed the worst parts of it while adding some necessary oversight. So this time, Pelosi is going first. This battle of which house gets to write the aid bill has been going on throughout the crisis, in the background, it bears mentioning. But for some reason, Republicans are now outraged (or they're pretending to be, at any rate).

Pelosi made the right move in going first, for a number of reasons. One, she got to write the bill, so she not only made it big ($3 trillion) but also included things like lots of money for states to run mail-in elections this November, and a trillion dollars to aid state and local governments whose tax base has been decimated by the crisis. All of the major things Pelosi added were things she had been told "we can get to that stuff later" by Mitch McConnell and the White House in all the earlier bills. But this could be the last such bailout bill Congress manages to pass, or the last big one at any rate. So the time is now -- if Democrats don't hold firm for this stuff then the opportunity will be lost.

Pelosi is even getting pushback from progressives who insist that the bill doesn't go far enough (originally, according to Pelosi, it was a $4 trillion bill). In particular, progressives wanted a much better way of getting money to laid-off workers by paying their employers to keep their paychecks flowing through the crisis, but it was not included in the final bill. The window is really closing on when this would actually do a lot of good, as some people have been out of work for over two months now. With another three million filing for unemployment this week, America has lost over 36 million jobs during the past two months -- the biggest decline ever.

Pelosi is going to fight hard to get this bill passed. She knows that if it doesn't, state and local governments are going to have to start laying off firefighters and cops and nurses. Which would be insane, obviously, in the midst of a crisis. But which has already begun to happen across the country.

Of course, even if the bill passes the House, Mitch McConnell intends to ignore it. Which means it will be incumbent on all Democrats to raise the pressure on him until he comes to the negotiating table. Which really shouldn't be all that hard to do, since there are all sorts of things in the bill that the public overwhelmingly supports. If McConnell sticks his head in the sand (right next to Trump) and insists that everything's fine and the crisis is now over ("My head's in the sand, so you can't see me!" ), then he had better pay a political price for doing so. Thankfully, Pelosi already has a strong voice supporting more aid, that of the chair of the Federal Reserve, who this week said: "Additional fiscal support could be costly but worth it if it helps avoid long-term economic damage and leaves us with a stronger recovery." This helps lend urgency to the effort, obviously.

For putting together the next pandemic aid bill in the House and for including most of the Democrats' concerns in the bill, Nancy Pelosi is our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week.

[Congratulate Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on her House contact page, to let her know you appreciate her efforts.]

This week, the F.B.I. confiscated the phone of Republican Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, because it may have evidence that he broke the law. Members of Congress are barred from trading on insider information they receive in their work, but Burr apparently sold off a whole bunch of stocks right after he was briefed on the severity of the approaching pandemic, months ago. Barr has since stepped down as the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee as a result of the search warrant. Because this turned the media's attention back to the whole insider-trading story, it was also revealed that Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein also turned over documents to law enforcement agencies which she says proves that she didn't share any insider information with her husband, Richard Blum, an investment banker who sold shares of a biotech company in January before the market crashed. So we certainly can't give her an award here yet, but we'll be keeping our eyes on this situation as it develops.

Instead, we are awarding the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week to Christy Smith, who lost a special House election this week in Southern California. The election was held because Katie Hill resigned the seat after a sex scandal, after successfully flipping the district in the blue wave of 2018. The district has now flipped back to the Republicans (Smith lost by 12 points), which is heartening for Republicans who think they'll have a shot at flipping the entire House this November. However, the winner will have to run again in November, and turnout is expected to be a lot higher. So Smith could actually wrest the seat back from the Republicans in less than six months.

Even so, it was indeed disappointing to lose a House seat now. Democrats lost two special elections this week, but the other House seat was in a reliably-red district, so it didn't come as a surprise.

If Christy Smith manages to win in November, it will certainly wipe out the disappointment from this week, but for now Smith is our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week.

[Christy Smith is now a private citizen running for office, and it's our blanket policy not to provide contact information for candidates or links to campaign sites, sorry.]

Volume 574 (5/15/20)

Before we begin, while we wrote about it yesterday we'd like to again urge everyone to read a very extensive article in the Financial Times (we cited it earlier today, with that "fruits to the volcano" quote). It is a brutal takedown of the rampant incompetence the Trump administration has shown since the crisis began, and is well worth the time it takes to read. Oh, Time magazine also has an interesting article (and an even better cover image) worth checking out, in the same vein.

OK, with that out of the way, let's dive right in to this week's talking points, shall we?

See, it can help you, too!

Since Democrats lost that California special election, they should at least make a pithy point to Republicans about what happened.

"Republicans, from Trump on down, seem scared silly of the concept of mail-in ballots. I have no idea why, since Trump himself votes absentee now. But overall, the GOP seems to think this is somehow a partisan issue that somehow benefits Democrats. This is simply not true -- it is not partisan at all! California just held a special election for a House seat, and President Trump was so worried about it that he tweeted some baseless conspiracy theories about it last weekend. But guess what? In an election conducted largely by mail, the Republican actually won! That's right -- there simply was no partisan bias to voting by mail at all. Which is what Democrats have been saying all along. Democrats want to make it safer and easier for everyone to vote this November. For some bizarre reason, Republicans don't. Even though there is simply no partisan bias to voting by mail, period."

Mitch admits he lied

This is more than Donald Trump has ever done, we have to admit.

"Mitch McConnell just admitted that he outright lied about the Obama administration. He had said in an earlier interview: 'We want to be early, ready for the next one, because clearly the Obama administration did not leave to this administration any kind of game plan for something like this.' Except that was completely false -- the Obama team actually had left Trump a 69-page playbook, which contained 'hundreds of recommendations' for dealing with a pandemic, but Donald Trump threw it into the trash. As whistleblower Rick Bright pointed out, in his testimony to Congress this week: 'It is painfully clear that we were not as prepared as we should have been. We missed early warning signals, and we forgot important pages from our pandemic playbook.' Except that Trump didn't 'forget' them, he ignored them. Bright also added: 'we don't have a single point of leadership right now for this response, and we don't have a master plan for this response.' McConnell at least had the decency to correct the record on Obama later, saying: 'I was wrong. They did leave behind a plan. So, I clearly made a mistake in that regard.' Meanwhile, the White House press secretary had a different spin on things: 'The Obama-Biden paper packet was superseded by a President Trump-style pandemic preparedness response plan. Which was much better.' It was not reported whether reporters in the room broke out into peals of laughter when she uttered that last sentence, however."

Nah, we won't need any masks

Uncovering the rampant incompetence of the Trump pandemic response has only just begun.

"In the future, whole books will no doubt be written detailing the many failings and flailings of the Trump administration when the coronavirus hit America. It may take years to fully understand the depths of the incompetence, in fact. We're just beginning to hear some of these stories, now that Congress is examining all the many mistakes that were made. First and foremost this week was the news that a medical supplies company contacted the White House in January -- in January, mind you -- to get support to open up mothballed production lines to make N95 masks. They could have been churning out 7 million more masks per month by now if this had actually happened. But his request was ignored. Here is an American manufacturer telling the government he is ready and willing to help, and he was sent packing instead. Because the Trump administration didn't think it would need any masks. This is just one story -- there will likely be many more of these uncovered -- which shows how woefully inadequate the Trump administration has been from the very beginning of the crisis."

Are you smarter than a fifth-grader?

He probably lost interest after the first page....

"The C.D.C. tried to do what it is supposed to do in a medical crisis, by drawing up an extensive list of how to safely continue social distancing when reopening the American economy. Their list had pages and pages of detail -- it was reportedly 63 pages long, and contained such helpful advice as suggesting schools separate children's belongings and keeping playgrounds and cafeterias closed. But then Nancy Beck, described as 'a former chemical industry executive nominated to be the nation's top consumer safety watchdog' who is 'not a medical doctor and has no background in virology' derailed the effort, apparently for political reasons. It seems Trump thought the guidelines were 'too restrictive.' So yesterday they instead released a six-page dumbed-down version which tossed out virtually all of the detailed guidelines the doctors and experts had come up with. How can advice from experts be political? Why would anyone even want to make this a political issue? Right when the public is hungry for some intelligent advice from people who know what they're talking about, the C.D.C. is forced to remove 90 percent of its own guidelines for reopening the country, because Trump somehow thinks it'll hurt his chances of being re-elected. This is nothing short of insane."

Even Republicans think Trump's wrong

Everyone sing along: "Macho, macho man. I want to be a macho man..."

"President Donald Trump, and to a lesser extent Vice President Mike Pence, seem to be striving to set the worst possible example they can to the general public. Trump swears he's never going to wear a facemask. So far, he's visited two factories which make facemasks and refused to wear one while meeting people. At a recent meeting of CEOs headed by Mike Pence, an aide walked into the room before Pence and instructed the CEOs to take off the masks they were wearing. Trump and Pence both seem to think this is some sort of test of their manhood, or something. But the public expects their national leaders to... well, lead in a time of crisis, and that includes setting a good example for others to follow. In a recent poll, over seven in ten people said Trump and Pence should be wearing masks when they travel. Only 12 percent said they shouldn't. And even 57 percent of Republicans want to see Trump and Pence wearing masks. So it's really hard to see what Trump thinks he's going to lose by doing so, because even his own voters disagree with his reckless decision."

He refused to act

Team Biden dropped a good ad recently, which hits directly at Donald Trump for his cluelessness. It's such a succinct way to sum up the case against Trump's bungled pandemic response that we decided it was worthy on its own to be a talking point this week:

Donald Trump doesn't understand: We have an economic crisis because we have a public health crisis, and we have a public health crisis because he refused to act. Donald Trump didn't build a great economy. His failure to lead destroyed one.

Trump Death Clock

And finally, a grim new counter appeared in Times Square this week.

"Remember the Debt Clock? There's now a new counter up in Times Square with the grim numbers of people who needlessly died during this pandemic. Since experts have estimated that around 60 percent of the coronavirus deaths are directly attributable to Donald Trump's refusal to act for so long at the start of the crisis, this new Trump Death Clock now counts the sobering total of lives paid for Trump's incompetence. Call it a grim sign of the times."

Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
Follow Chris on Twitter: ChrisWeigant
Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com
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Friday Talking Points -- Joe Says It Ain't So

All week long, the pressure increased for Joe Biden to "Say it ain't so, Joe!" So this morning, he did. Biden appeared (remotely) on Morning Joe and [link:|flatly denied] the accusation made against him that he had sexually assaulted Tara Reade in 1993 while he was a sitting senator and she was on his staff: "No. It is not true. I'm saying unequivocally it never, never happened and it didn't."

When asked about his previous position when Republicans had been accused of such behavior ("You've got to start off with the presumption that at least the essence of what she's talking about is real" ), Biden tried to thread the needle:

Look, from the very beginning, I've said believing women means taking women's claims seriously when she steps forward and then vet it. Look into it. That's true in this case as well.... I'll always uphold that principle. But in the end, in every case, the truth is what matters. In this case, the truth is that the claims are false.

. . .

Look, women are to be believed, given the benefit of the doubt. If they come forward and say something that they said happened to them, they should start off with the presumption they're telling the truth. Then you have to look at the circumstances and the facts. And the facts in this case do not exist -- they never happened. And there are so many inconsistencies in what has been said in this case. So yes, look at the facts. And I can assure you it did not happen, period, period.

Biden did make one unforced error, which he'll hopefully reconsider soon. His senatorial papers were donated to the University of Delaware, but have not been made public yet (and won't until after he leaves "public life" ). Biden asserts that even if Reade had made a personnel complaint at the time, it simply wouldn't be in his senatorial papers, therefore there's no reason to allow a search of them. Biden claimed this morning that any such complaint would reside within the National Archives, if it even existed. Reade has said she did file such a complaint with a congressional human resources office -- but not about the actual assault, rather just about other things Biden did that made her feel uncomfortable. She also said she didn't keep a copy of the complaint herself. Later today, however, the National Archives weighed in by passing the buck: "any records of Senate personnel complaints from 1993 would have remained under the control of the Senate. Accordingly, inquiries related to these records should be directed to the Senate."

This leaves all the political reporters with a paper chase -- who can be the first to hunt the complaint down or provide evidence that it never existed in the first place? This will doubtlessly play out over the next week or so. But Biden, by walling off his senatorial archive, is going to be pressed about what he's hiding, either way. The only way he can get on top of this is to allow some sort of search of his papers which is only limited to finding anything on Reade in there. This won't be easy, however. His archive consists of "1,875 boxes and 415 gigabytes of electronic content, largely uncataloged." But Trump is going to insist that Biden's "hiding something" until Biden allows such a search. The hypocrisy of Trump accusing anyone else of not being transparent is massive, of course, since we're all still waiting for those tax returns Trump repeatedly promised he'd make public four years ago (just to give the most prominent example of Trump covering up things from his own past).

Our guess is that Joe Biden is going to be forced to give some sort of speech on the general subject of violence against women, in the same way that Barack Obama had to give a speech about his pastor and J.F.K. had to give a speech about being Catholic. The only way the issue will be defused is if Biden first lays out his own lengthy record on the subject (passing the Violence Against Women Act, etc.) and then directly addresses the Reade accusation by calling for some independent actor (a former judge, maybe?) to comb through his archives in search of any evidence one way or the other. From this point on, Biden can simply refer to this speech and move on. Politically, that would seem to be the best route forward for Biden. One interview on a morning cable show is probably not going to be enough.

President Trump actually kind of gave Biden the benefit of the doubt this week, by suggesting that it was a false accusation. Trump, of course, has been accused by over a dozen women of similar behavior, and maintains that all of them are lying. One of these accusations was made not during the 2016 campaign, but while he was president, for which Trump has gotten nowhere near the scrutiny Biden is now getting. Conservative Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin pointed out this media double standard today:

Regarding claims of sexual harassment and assault, consider that Trump is not asked about the rape allegation made against him by E. Jean Carroll. He denied in 2019 knowing her and recycled a grotesque trope, namely that rape is about sexual attraction. "She's not my type," he declared during an interview with the Hill in 2019. She is currently suing him for defamation. Trump is not asked about this suit, about a similar lawsuit from Summer Zervos (based on his denial of her allegation that he groped her) or any other alleged assault or instance of harassment. He has never answered a bevy of questions (as Biden did Friday) on any, let alone all, of these allegations. What we get looks an awful lot like 2016: The media stops harping on Trump's alleged, egregious wrongdoing but demands details and a full accounting from his opponent for the Democrats' conduct.

The media has adopted the approach that a pattern of sexual harassment claims over decades is not relevant because Trump has denied them, yet they (properly) want investigated the single assault claim against Biden. Biden responded in an interview and in a lengthy written statement; the media insists these things have to be investigated further. They do not ask Trump's campaign why the president does not respond to questions. They do not ask Republicans about Carroll, Zervos or others.

The media regularly deny the accusation that they normalize Trump's conduct and insist they are "balanced," yet they have neglected to hold Trump accountable for his conduct.

Of course, while Joe Biden led the news today, there's a bigger ongoing story out there as well. So let's check in and see how Donald Trump is handling his first real crisis, shall we? Hey, at least we got through a whole week without the president suggesting injecting lethal substances into human bodies just to see what would happen, so things can't be that bad... can they?

The sprawling CARES Act, and its similarly rushed companion bills, has fueled rising angst for lawmakers. They've been bombarded with complaints about breakdowns in the small business lending program, loopholes that have allowed large companies to snatch cash meant for smaller operations and administrative failures that have delayed stimulus checks to struggling American households.

Hospitals, lawmakers say, are competing with each other and the federal government for life-saving equipment for their employees, and coronavirus testing is still hard to access in many parts of the country, despite Congress' efforts.

And it's all occurring without the oversight operations meant to confront these problems as they arise.

"Our constituents have a lot of questions about where the hell this $3 billion is going and why it isn't coming into their pockets," Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.) said during a Thursday meeting at the Capitol.

That doesn't sound very good, does it? Well, perhaps some other sector of the economy is doing better. Let's check in with the farmers:

Tens of millions of pounds of American-grown produce is rotting in fields as food banks across the country scramble to meet a massive surge in demand, a two-pronged disaster that has deprived farmers of billions of dollars in revenue while millions of newly jobless Americans struggle to feed their families.

. . .

Just 50 miles from Trump's home in Mar-a-Lago, Florida growers, much of whose produce was destined for restaurant chains, faced an immediate crisis: Find customers for surplus crops or plow the fields under to avoid attracting pests.

Images of farmers destroying tomatoes, piling up squash, burying onions and dumping milk shocked many Americans who remain fearful of supply shortages. At the same time, people who recently lost their jobs lined up for miles outside some food banks, raising questions about why there has been no coordinated response at the federal level to get the surplus of perishable food to more people in need, even as commodity groups, state leaders and lawmakers repeatedly urged the Agriculture Department to step in.

Well surely the federal government is taking some sort of action, right? Unfortunately, they have been, but it hasn't exactly been helping. Which is why some governors are taking matters into their own hands:

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said he's been forced to resort to drastic measures to protect nearly 500,000 COVID-19 test kits from the federal government.

The state bought the test kits from South Korea earlier this month, and the state's National Guard is guarding them in a secret location to prevent them from being commandeered by the Trump administration.

On Thursday, Hogan, a Republican, told The Washington Post about the careful steps he's taking to ensure the tests remain in Maryland.

For instance, he had the plane from South Korea land at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport instead of Washington's Dulles International Airport to reduce the chance that the feds would seize the COVID-19 cargo.

In addition, the plane was greeted by what Hogan described as "a large contingent of Maryland National Guard and Maryland State Police."

Wow. A state government forced to hide medical supplies because it doesn't trust that the Trump administration won't steal them. That's pretty jaw-dropping, when you think about it.

But it certainly wasn't the only jaw-dropping news this week. The first quarterly economic data is starting to come in, and things are pretty dismal. Gross domestic product was down 4.8 percent in the first quarter, but that's not even the worst of the bad news. Some economists are predicting that in the second quarter the economy might shrink between 35 and 40 percent. That's stunning.

Here's White House advisor Larry Kudlow, with a much rosier projection from early February (when Team Trump was still insisting that coronavirus was nothing to worry about at all):

The impact on the American economy will be very, very, very small, if any.... We really haven't seen any economic impact. There may be some out there. Our own internal numbers say maybe two-tenths of a percent in the first quarter, but that's not going to end this growth cycle.

The growth cycle begun 11 years ago is now officially over, as Kudlow was proven disastrously wrong.

The Congressional Budget Office just also predicted that this year's deficit will be the worst in all of American history, coming in at 3.7 trillion dollars. And that's before the next round of bailout bills is even factored in.

And finally, the unemployment numbers just keep getting worse as well. Another 3.8 million workers filed for unemployment this week, making the total over six weeks an astounding 30.3 million. And that doesn't even count everybody, since those are only the ones who were even eligible for unemployment payments. Next Friday we'll get a more accurate look at where unemployment truly is, when the monthly figure is announced for April. Spoiler alert: it's not going to be good. In fact, it'll likely be much worse than the depths of the Great Recession.

Or, as Donald Trump famously predicted: "We're going to win so much you'll be sick and tired of winning." Well, at least he got the "sick and tired" part right, at any rate.

This is probably more than a little bit subjective, but we've decided to give the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Schumer has seemingly been everywhere this week, popping up in news interviews and even on late-night television. This is all in preparation for the Senate reconvening next week, and Chuck's got a built-in advantage in this regard, since he lives in New York where all the media is centered. But while Nancy Pelosi had a pretty good week in the media last week, Schumer dominated this week on television. Again, this is subjective -- perhaps we just watched the shows Schumer appeared on and missed someone better on other shows. We fully admit the possibility.

But from what we saw, Schumer is doing a great job of setting up the Democratic argument for next week, slamming Mitch McConnell for his partisan nonsense, and laying out exactly how massively Donald Trump is failing in his pandemic response. His PBS NewsHour interview was one good example (as we wrote about earlier this week).

Schumer seems eager to take on the Republicans, so next week could be an interesting one to watch in the Senate. Democrats will be pushing to pass the next coronavirus bailout bill, while McConnell will be hustling through patently unqualified judicial picks. The contrast will be stark, in other words.

Sadly, it's unusual to see a Democratic leader so effectively advance their own narrative in the press before the fighting begins. Often times they are left playing defense, but Schumer seems to have gotten out in front of things rather well.

So for his many good interviews this week, and for exhibiting an impressive amount of feistiness before the fight even starts, Chuck Schumer is our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week.

[Congratulate Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on his Senate contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]

Before we begin, we have some old business to take care of first. Last week, we issued our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award to Bill and Hillary Clinton, with a caveat: "The only possible reason they haven't endorsed Biden yet would be that Team Biden is somehow holding them back so they can use their endorsements to maximum value later on."

Well, Hillary Clinton did indeed endorse Biden this week, in what was obviously a preplanned event. Bill Clinton hasn't endorsed Biden, but doing so right now would be problematic in the extreme (due to his philandering), so we can understand why Team Biden might have said: "Thanks, Bill, but no thanks, right now."

So we hereby rescind the MDDOTW awards from last week as being unjustified and unearned, and issue our own apology to the Clintons. Mea culpa.

Because we were premature with last week's award, we're also going to hold off on even considering Joe Biden for an award this week, until we see a little more of the fallout and reaction to his interview this morning. Things could easily go either way for Biden right now, so we're going to wait another week to chime in with any award.

Instead, this week we're going to get a little obscure and award the MDDOTW to the New York State Board of Elections, who just decided to cancel the Democratic presidential primary. They're not canceling the primary election entirely, mind you, just the Democratic presidential part of it. People will still be voting on other offices and issues on the ballot, but they won't be able to cast a vote for Bernie Sanders, even if they would like to do so.

Again, if the Democratic presidential race were the only thing on the ballot, this would be entirely understandable. It would save a bunch of money, and it would avoid needless risk in the middle of a pandemic. But that's not the case, so that excuse doesn't really exist.

Bernie could have racked up some more delegates for the convention in New York, but now he won't have this opportunity. For denying the voters this choice, we have to award the Democratic members of the New York elections board the Most Disappointing Democrats Of The Week award.

[Contact the New York State Board of Elections on their official contact page, to let them know what you think of their actions.]

Volume 572 (5/1/20)

OK, another mixed bunch this week.

Also, something funny that didn't seem to fit anywhere else, just as an appetizer. Last week, Trump tried to explain away his lethal suggestion that people be injected with bleach or ultraviolet light to cure the coronavirus as "sarcasm," which was pretty outrageous for many reasons (first, he was being serious and not sarcastic at all; second, he was asking the questions to the doctors, not the media; and third, why would any sane leader joke in any way during a deadly pandemic which has killed tens of thousands of Americans?!?).

But the best response to his laughable claim that he was somehow being "sarcastic" came from an unexpected source. Among many others, Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings tweeted out his reaction, which was hilarious: "I would like to announce that when I gave wrong answers on Jeopardy, I was being sarcastic."

Heh. See now, Mister President, that is how sarcasm works!

Maybe you might want to check with your governor, Mitch...

The irony is strong here. So point it out!

"Mitch McConnell recently suggested that states should just go bankrupt rather than getting any aid from the federal government, and even used the term 'blue-state bailout' to try to pin all the blame on places like New York and New Jersey. Donald Trump jumped in to denigrate Illinois and other 'Democrat run' [sic] and 'poorly run states.' Both of them might want to check the facts, however. In the first place, there are some states that consistently get more federal money each year than send in to the Treasury. The third-worst in this category is none other than Kentucky, who in 2018 took in a whopping $147 billion more than they sent in. As for those 'poorly-run' blue states? Well, let's see -- it seems like all of them send more money to the feds that they get each year. New York sent $116 billion more than they got; New Jersey $72 billion more; California $26 billion more; and Illinois sent $22 billion more than they got. This means all these states are bailing out Kentucky and all the other red 'taker' states each and every year. So which states are really better run? And as for Kentucky, Mitch might want to check with his home state's governor, because Kentucky is looking at a shortfall this year of at least $318 billion -- which could even rise to $500 billion. The word used in the report to describe Kentucky's economic outlook was 'bleak.' And the governor plainly stated: 'It will cripple out efforts to rebuild if we don't see a relief package' from the federal government. Might want to think about that before saying state bankruptcy would be such a dandy idea, Mitch."

It's all Obama's fault!

In the "more idiotic attempts to blame Democrats for everything bad that's happening" category, we have our Dear Leader.

"Donald Trump is trying to blame Barack Obama for, quote, broken tests, unquote, for the coronavirus. He also called them 'obsolete' and said that they 'didn't take care of people.' This is laughable in many different ways. In the first place, it is yet another example of Trump dodging any blame for anything, even things that are quite obviously his own fault. Trump is over three years in to his term as president. So even if what he was saying were remotely true -- which it isn't -- he would still be admitting that he himself dropped the ball for three whole years. But even that's laughable because of the clear fact that COVID-19 did not even exist until the year 2019 -- it's right there in the name, as a matter of fact, no matter whether Kellyanne Conway understands that or not. Obama could not possibly be to blame for any COVID-19 tests because he did not possess a time machine while in office. Also, when he left office, President Obama left Trump with a White House pandemic team and a pandemic playbook to use in a crisis. Trump disbanded the team and has completely ignored the playbook for the past five months. And yet he still thinks there are people out there as stupid as he is who will believe that somehow, this all must be Obama's fault. Somehow. This is nothing short of pathetic!"

;Trump's website was going to be better than Obama's

Remember the website that was going to make coronavirus testing smooth and seamless for everyone?

"In one of the earliest briefings from Donald Trump -- after he had wasted six weeks denying that the problem existed, of course -- he announced his wonderful plan that was going to help everyone immediately. He promised that a website would roll out that very weekend that would allow everyone to get instructions on how to get themselves tested for the virus. Here's what he said at the time:

Google is helping to develop a website. It's going to be very quickly done, unlike websites of the past, to determine whether a test is warranted and to facilitate testing at a nearby, convenient location.

That 'unlike websites of the past' was, of course, a gratuitous dig at the Obamacare signup website. So let's check back in and see how things are going, a full seven weeks later, shall we? It seems that Verily (the Google subsidiary) has only now facilitated 30,000 out of the six million tests performed in the United States. They only got a program up and running last week with Rite Aid, in only eight states. So maybe Trump's right -- maybe people will wind up comparing it to the Obamacare website rollout. Just not in the way he had hoped."

Jared declares mission accomplished

Because of course he did.

"Let's see, we've got tens of millions of pounds of fresh food being plowed under by farmers while food banks have a shortage of food to hand out. We've got a Republican governor protecting his coronavirus test kits by storing them in a secret location and using his own National Guard troops because he's afraid the feds will steal them. We've got millions of small businesses who haven't seen a dime of bailout money while the big corporations are once again making out like bandits. We've got hospitals and states in a Lord Of The Flies world of competing against each other for supplies (which is why those tests in Maryland are under guard, by the way) and the federal government only stepping in to provide the leadership they should when Trump's cheeseburger supply is threatened. We don't have anywhere near the tests we need to reopen safely, and yet multiple states are going to do so anyway and just hope for the best. And we've got no oversight of any of these catastrophes whatsoever. We've got over 1.1 million American infected and over 65,000 deaths -- more Americans dead than in all of the Vietnam War -- and we're still seeing 30,000 new cases a day and 2,000 new deaths a day. Meanwhile, South Korea -- who had their first case on the very same day America did -- just reported a day with no new cases at all. So how's everything going? Well, according to Jared Kushner: 'I think that we've achieved all the different milestones that are needed. So, the government, federal government rose to the challenge and this is a great success story and I think that that's really what needs to be told.' Great success story? Wow. Unbelievable. If this is a success, I'd hate to see what a failure looks like."

Trump throws a hissy fit

Trump got some bad news this week that he actually paid attention to.

"It was reported this week that Trump threw a tantrum when his own re-election team told him he was losing to Joe Biden not only in national polls, but across all the battleground states as well. He apparently insisted 'I'm not losing to Joe Biden,' although some reports also added an obscene gerund beginning with 'F' to that quote, just before Biden's name. Trump also reportedly threatened to sue his pollster for bringing him bad polling. Trump is down by 3-to-8 points in: Florida, North Carolina, Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and Ohio. His advisors were desperately trying to get him to stop appearing at the daily pandemic briefings, because this is the singlemost reason why the voters are turning so sour on him. It seems that the more people see of Trump on television, failing to exhibit any leadership and incapable of normal human empathy for the sick and the dead, the less they like him. Trump, however, is still reportedly convinced that he's doing a great job at the briefings. So Democrats everywhere should really hope for as many Trump briefings as possible, because the more of them there are the lower Trump's re-election chances get."

Kimmel calls it right


"Vice President Mike Pence went to tour the Mayo Clinic this week. He was informed by the clinic beforehand of their policy of requiring everyone who enters to wear a mask. Pence's team even put out a memo to reporters pointing out that they would have to wear a mask on the visit. But then Pence refused to do so and was allowed to tour the clinic anyway, which didn't exactly go over very well. Videos of Pence being the only person in the room without a mask were jarring in the extreme. When confronted, Pence had a rather bizarre explanation: 'I thought it'd be a good opportunity for me to be here, to be able to speak to these researchers, these incredible health-care personnel, and look them in the eye and say thank you.' Except that masks don't cover the eyes, of course. Pence later lied that he hadn't been informed, and then his wife doubled down and repeated the lie, even though the Mayo Clinic stated clearly that he had been informed. Also, Pence threatened a reporter who verified that the press corps had been informed ahead of the visit with banishment from Air Force Two. But late-night comedian Jimmy Kimmel had the final word, because he called it exactly right: 'You know the only reason he didn't wear a mask is because Trump won't wear one, right?'"

Noble laureates?

From the "Our president is an idiot" files, entry 42,872:

"Donald Trump got two things massively wrong while rage-tweeting about how unfairly the media has been to him (as they point out his failures and repeat his own empty promises back to him). He complained that reporters should all have to give back their 'Noble Prizes,' or even give them to the 'REAL REPORTERS & JOURNALISTS who got it right,' and wondered: 'When will the Noble Committee DEMAND the Prizes back?' As with many things Trump, there is more than one level of idiocy in play here. First, there is no such thing as a 'Noble Prize' or a 'Noble Committee.' Second, Nobel Prizes do not, in fact, exist in the field of journalism. There are, instead, Pulitzer Prizes. But I shudder to think how Trump would mangle the spelling of 'Pulitzer' when he obviously can't even spell 'Nobel'."

Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
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Friday Talking Points -- Our President's Crazy, Did You Hear What He Said?

We have shown what we consider to be a massive amount of restraint during Donald Trump's term as president, in that we've only used that headline once previously. The line comes from a Talking Heads song ("Making Flippy Floppy" ) which was referencing Ronald Reagan, at the time it was written. We did consider two other headlines today: "Our National Nightmare Continues: Trump Suggests Injecting Bleach. Or Sunshine," as well as: "Stable Genius Offers Lethal Suggestions: Injecting Bleach Or Sunshine," but upon reflection we decided that the Talking Heads line was more deserved this week than ever before. Because the president is now giving people advice which, if followed, will kill them. In other words: our president's crazy, did you hear what he said?

Of course, earlier in Donald Trump's peripatetic response to the coronavirus, a man died because he drank chemicals intended to clean fishtanks -- because he thought it was the same thing as the miracle drug Trump was actively touting on a daily basis. So you'd think Trump would already be aware that sometimes people stupidly act on his advice with lethal consequences.

If so, you'd be wrong. Because yesterday, Trump tossed out a few more lethal ideas, including injecting bleach or isopropyl alcohol or somehow defying the laws of physics by getting ultraviolet light inside the body... somehow... to fight off the coronavirus.

Before we get any further, a disclaimer is necessary. DO NOT do these things. They WILL kill you. So don't even try. Just don't. Even if you love Trump and everything he does, DO NOT take his suggestions. Because no matter how loyal you are, no matter how many "Make America Great Again" hats you own, it will still kill you dead. Period.

Sigh. The fact that the previous paragraph was even necessary shows the depths to which America has now sunk. Remember when Republicans tried to scared the bejeezus out of everyone by warning of Obamacare's supposed "death panels"? Now a Republican president is suggesting that people form their own death panels and inject some bleach, just to see what would happen.

Let's go to the official transcript, to understand just how stable a genius is in charge of the country right now. Just after a presentation about how various things affect how fast the coronavirus dies on surfaces and in the air, which included information about disinfectants like bleach or rubbing alcohol as well as ultraviolet light, Trump jumped in with his own brainstorm:

Thank you very much. So I asked Bill a question that probably some of you are thinking of, if you're totally into that world, which I find to be very interesting. So, supposing we hit the body with a tremendous -- whether it's ultraviolet or just very powerful light -- and I think you said that that hasn't been checked, but you're going to test it. And then I said, supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way, and I think you said you're going to test that too. It sounds interesting.

The number of rather basic things Trump doesn't understand in this one paragraph is rather astounding. First, it's pretty obvious that even if Trump did float the idea to the scientists, in no way did they ever say they're "going to test that too." Because they are not morons, of course. And how exactly is Trump going to get light "inside the body"? The only waves in the electromagnetic spectrum strong enough to do so are things like X-rays and other hard radiation, of course. Visible light or even ultraviolet light just doesn't do that sort of thing. Even strong ultraviolet light is pretty dangerous -- it's what causes sunburn, after all. But according to Trump, this could happen "through the skin or in some other way." Well, it won't work through the skin, so what other way is he even thinking about? Cutting people's lungs open and laying them out in the sunlight? Or what? Maybe he's just patting himself on the back for doing such a great job for the past few months by "blowing sunshine up everyone's ass"? That could actually be it, now that we think about it.

But amazingly, this wasn't even the stupidest or most lethal thing Trump suggested. He continued:

Right. And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute. One minute! And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning. Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it would be interesting to check that. So, that, you're going to have to use medical doctors with. But it sounds -- it sounds interesting to me. So we'll see. But the whole concept of the light, the way it kills it in one minute, that's -- that's pretty powerful.

Again, the disinfectants under discussion were bleach and isopropyl alcohol, both of which are highly toxic (that's why they are disinfectants in the first place, after all) and should never be injected into a human body. It's difficult to follow Trump's tortured syntax, but he also seems to be suggesting that maybe people could just breathe it in ("almost a cleaning" and then talking about the lungs). The worst constructed sentence was of course: "So, that, you're going to have to use medical doctors with." Which is somewhat of a relief, because no sane medical doctor is ever going to go along with such an obviously lethal course of action.

Since there were a few actual medical experts in the room with Trump, the reporters turned to them to see what they thought about the idea. The acting D.H.S. undersecretary (with the unwieldy title: "Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary for Science and Technology" ) who had just given the presentation on disinfectants was first asked about the concept:

But I -- just, can I ask about -- the president mentioned the idea of cleaners, like bleach and isopropyl alcohol you mentioned. There's no scenario that that could be injected into a person, is there? I mean --

His answer was swift and unequivocal:

No, I'm here to talk about the findings that we had in the study. We won't do that within that lab and our lab.

Trump then tried to walk back his suggestion: "It wouldn't be through injection," even though that is exactly what he had just proposed.

Later, while declaring himself a mental giant once again, he turned and asked Dr. Deborah Birx whether it would be a good idea or not.

I would like you to speak to the medical doctors to see if there's any way that you can apply light and heat to cure. You know -- but if you could. And maybe you can, maybe you can't. Again, I say, maybe you can, maybe you can't. I'm not a doctor. But I'm like a person that has a good [points to his own head] you know what.... Deborah, have you ever heard of that? The heat and the light, relative to certain viruses, yes, but relative to this virus?

Dr. Birx was equally clear in her answer: "Not as a treatment." Although, in the first official transcript of the briefing the White House released, this was reported as: "That is a treatment." It was later changed to reflect the reality of what she had said.

Trump tried to get right back on the horse that just threw him: "I think it's a great thing to look at. I mean, you know. Okay?"

When a reporter chided Trump for providing "rumors" rather than hard scientific information, Trump attacked the reporter. Because of course he did.

In the 24 hours after all this happened, the reactions have been raising the alarm. As well they should be, when the president of the United States tells the public it might be a good idea to inject some bleach.

First, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany (who has only been on the job three weeks) tried to pin it all on the media somehow taking Trump's words "out of context":

President Trump has repeatedly said that Americans should consult with medical doctors regarding coronavirus treatment, a point that he emphasized again during yesterday's briefing. Leave it to the media to irresponsibly take President Trump out of context and run with negative headlines.

I guess, in her world, "you're going to have to use medical doctors with" equates to "consult." And it's pretty impossible not to "run with negative headlines" when the president is suggesting injecting lethal substances.

Would anybody actually be stupid enough to follow Trump's advice? Sadly, the answer to that is not "no, of course not." It was revealed today that over 100 people had already called into Maryland's emergency hotline asking whether injecting or ingesting disinfectants could help cure COVID-19. Once again: it cannot -- it will KILL YOU instead. Maryland's state emergency management agency had to issue a warning: "This is a reminder that under no circumstances should any disinfectant product be administered into the body through injection, ingestion or any other route."

The corporation that makes Lysol also put out a strong public warning:

As a global leader in health and hygiene products, we must be clear that under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body (through injection, ingestion or any other route). As with all products, our disinfectant and hygiene products should only be used as intended and in line with usage guidelines.

Trump's own former Food and Drug Administrator Scott Gottlieb went on the airwaves to reinforce this message:

I think we need to speak very clearly. There's no circumstance under which you should take a disinfectant or inject a disinfectant for the treatment of anything, and certainly not the treatment of coronavirus. There's absolutely no circumstance in which that's appropriate, and it can cause death and very adverse outcomes, so people should not be doing that if that was an impression that was left by any of the reporting around comments that have been made in the last 24 hours.

Meanwhile, Trump toady Rudy Giuliani was doubling down on the stupidity, suggesting to Fox News that the government also contact trace for cancer, obesity and heart disease, which is, of course, impossible, since they are not contagious diseases.

But back to Trump's lethal idiocy. More reactions poured in:

Regardless of the intent behind Trump's statements, they compelled the American Cleaning Institute, which represents the manufacturers and formulators of various cleaning products, to publish a news release Friday "in response to speculation about the use of disinfectants in or on one's body."

"Disinfectants are meant to kill germs or viruses on hard surfaces. Under no circumstances should they ever be used on one's skin, ingested or injected internally," the A.C.I. said. "We remind everyone to please use all hygiene, cleaning and disinfecting products as directed in order to ensure safe, effective and intended use of those products."

Even Surgeon General Jerome Adams appeared to caution against the president's advice, reminding Americans in a tweet to "PLEASE always talk to your health provider first before administering any treatment/medication to yourself or a loved one."

"Your safety is paramount, and doctors and nurses... have years of training to recommend what's safe and effective," Adams wrote.

Rep. Will Hurd of Texas was one of the first Republican lawmakers Friday to break with the White House over Trump's enthusiasm for disinfectants, saying elected officials should "leave the guidance on health to health professionals."

"Nobody should drink disinfectant," Hurd told MSNBC. "I think that's pretty clear, and we should be listening to doctors and scientists on this issue. I'm not listening to any politician on health-related issues."

Later today, Trump tried to explain it all away as some sort of joke -- he was just "asking a question sarcastically to reporters... just to see what would happen." Nobody on Planet Earth believed him, however, since the video clearly shows no signs of sarcasm whatsoever and also shows Trump asking the question to his own doctors and not to the journalists present.

To fully understand why it is impossible to believe that Trump was in any way joking, two previous events must be examined. The first is that the V.A. released a report earlier this week showing that Trump's favorite miracle cure to date -- hydroxychloroquine -- kills people when administered to fight coronavirus. More people than in the control group which didn't get it, in fact. Trump's been eager to tout this as a cure-all, but now cannot do so (although he still "hasn't read the report" from the V.A. and likely never will). So he's been flailing around looking for some other magic cure.

And just in the nick of time, a quack contacted Trump about the wondrous (and non-existent) healing powers of bleach. The Guardian broke the story of how snake-oil salesman Mark Grenon sent a letter to the White House this week touting his chlorine dioxide bleach panacea:

The leader of the most prominent group in the U.S. peddling potentially lethal industrial bleach as a "miracle cure" for coronavirus wrote to Donald Trump at the White House this week.

In his letter, Mark Grenon told Trump that chlorine dioxide -- a powerful bleach used in industrial processes such as textile manufacturing that can have fatal side-effects when drunk -- is "a wonderful detox that can kill 99% of the pathogens in the body". He added that it "can rid the body of COVID-19".

A few days after Grenon dispatched his letter, Trump went on national TV at his daily coronavirus briefing at the White House on Thursday and promoted the idea that disinfectant could be used as a treatment for the virus.

This fills in the cracks, obviously. Trump is denied his favorite miracle cure, desperately seeks another, and a letter arrives from a snake-oil salesman touting the magic properties of drinking bleach. So Trump decides to float this idea to his experts on live television. With disastrous results.

This, from a man who swears that the noise from wind turbines somehow causes cancer. This, from a man so deeply insecure that he had to take a Sharpie to a weather map because a hurricane didn't go where Trump said it was going to go.

How does a person live through seven decades on this planet without ever learning that injecting bleach can kill you? How does a person that old not understand how light works when it hits solid bodies? The president of the United States is supposed to be smarter than the average fifth-grader. But, sadly, this one is not. Which is why so many experts are begging Trump's supporters not to inject bleach, just because their Dear Leader said it might be a great idea.

This is where we are as a nation, folks. At least until next January.

Last week, we mused whether Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi would wind up disappointing us this week, since at that point the deal over the next bailout bill had not yet been struck and we did not think she was doing the best job of getting her side of the story out in the media.

We retract this speculation, and hereby award Speaker Pelosi the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award, for not only getting a much better deal than what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had originally offered, but also for doing an absolute stellar job of explaining the whole thing to the American public this week.

In particular, we urge everyone to watch Pelosi's interview on this Wednesday's PBS NewsHour, which was given right after the deal had been struck. Not only does she hit it out of the park in the interview itself, she appears to be actually beaming with joy over the outcome.

She made the case for why the Democrats were demanding more from McConnell, she explained how Democrats had gotten most of what they were demanding, and she outlined what will be in the next bailout bill, which she swore would originate in the House this time around. And she also took a few potshots at Donald Trump, for his woefully inadequate response to the crisis:

And so that's why I am saying that [President Donald Trump] is a poor leader. He ignores his own responsibility and assigns blame, instead of taking responsibility, paying attention to science, recognizing the word -- the role of governance in all of this to get the job done for the American people.

And so he's engaged in distractions like immigration, distractions like supporting people [demonstrators] on the street. They are all distractions away from the fact, the known fact, that he's a total failure when it comes to testing.

Pelosi, like most politicians, has good interviews and bad interviews. This was an excellent interview, plain and simple. We never should have doubted her, in fact.

Today, she continued on her roll at her news conference, ripping into Trump's reported insistence that he won't be bailing out the U.S. Postal Service: "No money for the post office. Instead inject Lysol into your lungs as we shut down the states." She also had a few choice words for Mitch McConnell, who this week expressed his opinion that cities and whole states should just go through bankruptcy rather than get bailed out by federal money: "Speaking of Mitch, what's gotten into him? The president is asking people to inject Lysol into their lungs and Mitch is saying the states should go bankrupt."

All around, Pelosi had a great week. Plus, her scarf/facemask is the most stylish face covering we've seen on just about anybody to date. All of which is why she's our obvious choice for Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week.

[Congratulate Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on her House contact page, to let her know you appreciate her efforts.]

While we are in the midst of a pandemic, we are also in the midst of a presidential race where the Democrats have settled on a nominee. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Barack Obama have all formally endorsed Biden. But there are two big names missing from the list of important and powerful Democrats who have offered a Biden endorsement: Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Where are they? What are they waiting for? Why has neither formally endorsed Joe Biden? It is downright inexplicable.

We have a living former Democratic president and the previous presidential nominee of the Democratic Party still sitting on the sidelines. The only possible reason they haven't endorsed Biden yet would be that Team Biden is somehow holding them back so they can use their endorsements to maximum value later on. But that doesn't really make a whole lot of sense, when Sanders, Warren, and Obama all rolled out their endorsements within a single week.

Is there some sort of bad blood between the Clintons and Biden that we are unaware of? It's certainly possible, but one would think that this would have been public knowledge by now if there was such a rift. Biden got picked for Obama's veep while Hillary only got secretary of State, but she never showed any resentment directed specifically at Biden for this that we are aware of, at any rate.

So our apologies if this is some sort of grand strategy by the Biden campaign, but we have to say that the Clintons are becoming more conspicuous in their absence from the list of high-profile Democrats who have endorsed Joe Biden. Which we feel is enough to win them this week's Most Disappointing Democrats Of The Week award.

[Bill and Hillary Clinton are private citizens now, and it is our blanket policy not to provide contact information for such persons, so you'll have to seek their contact information out for yourselves if you'd like to urge them to endorse Joe Biden sooner rather than later.]

Volume 571 (4/24/20)

For what we think is the first time ever -- in 571 iterations of this column -- we are not going to offer up some political talking points this week, but rather turn this section into a public service announcement. Because no matter who you are and no matter what politics you support, there's a very important message to get out to every single person right now, and we want to do everything we can to aid this effort. For the most part, we're going to keep them as short and to-the-point as possible, as well.

It will kill you

In the immortal words of Joe Bob Briggs: "I'm surprised I have to explain this stuff." Sigh.

"Do NOT inject bleach into your body. It will kill you."

It will kill you


"Do NOT inject alcohol of any type into your body. It will kill you."

It will kill you

And just if you got any other crazy ideas:

"Do NOT drink or ingest bleach or rubbing alcohol into your body. It will kill you, or -- at the best -- you will go blind."

It will kill you

And then there's one more base to cover:

"Do NOT try to breathe in bleach or rubbing alcohol into your lungs. It will most likely kill you, or make you deathly ill."

It is seriously dangerous

As for UV rays, let's nip the most common one in the bud before anyone gets any bright ideas:

"Do NOT lie on a tanning bed for hours on end, in an attempt to use ultraviolet light to kill the coronavirus. It will not work and you will get severely burned. Attempting to do so is highly dangerous, in fact."

You will die

Back to that Joe Bob Briggs line, once again, we suppose.

"Do NOT cut yourself open and lie in the sun. Even attempting to do so will almost certainly kill you."

The golden rule

Finally, the golden rule when it comes to which experts to consult.

"Do NOT take any medical advice at all from Donald Trump because he doesn't have the slightest clue what he is talking about. He's over seventy years old, and still doesn't realize that injecting bleach will kill you. He is a dangerous snake-oil salesman at best, and you should never follow any medical suggestion he ever makes, period."

Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
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Friday Talking Points -- Testing... Testing...

Testing... testing... One... two... three... Is this thing on?... Hello??

We can think of no better metaphor today than a booming amplified voice addressing a dark and empty space. For reasons that should be obvious, really.

President Donald Trump is an absolute genius -- at wasting time, that is. He just essentially wasted another entire week, which can be added on to all the previous weeks he wasted, since the dawn of the coronavirus. Which definitely includes the entire month of February, by the way.

Donald Trump spent the week as a total drama queen. Monday, he was apparently in a snit because on all the Sunday morning political shows, it was becoming more and more obvious that the real fault for why things had gotten so bad was that Trump himself wasted over a month at the very beginning of the crisis. So Trump rolled out a full-on propaganda show, complete with a video that tried to put all the blame on China and the press, instead of at his own feet where it rightfully belonged. The video had a timeline that was supposed to show what bold, decisive actions Trump had taken, but it left out the entire month of February. When an intrepid reporter pointed this out, Trump had a full-on tantrum. Here is Paula Reid from CBS, trying to get Trump to answer for the gap:

The argument is that you bought yourself some time and you didn't use it to prepare hospitals and you didn't use it to ramp up testing. Right now, literally 20 million people are unemployed. Tens of thousands of Americans are dead. How does this reel or this rant supposed to make people feel confident in an unprecedented crisis? Your video has a complete gap. What did your administration do in February with the time that your travel ban bought you?

In response, Trump called her "disgraceful" and "a fake."

Later, the White House put out a list of things Trump was taking credit for in February, which (shall we say) didn't bear close examination.

But this was a minor story compared to the real whopper Trump let loose on Monday. He essentially tried to crown himself king. Here are a few choice outtakes:

I like to allow governors to make decisions without overruling them, because from a constitutional standpoint, that's the way it should be done. If I disagreed, I would overrule a governor, and I have that right to do it. But I'd rather have them -- you can call it "federalist," you can call it "the Constitution," but I call it "the Constitution" -- I would rather have them make their decisions.

The states can do things if they want. I can override it if I want.

The authority of the president of the United States having to do with the subject we're talking about is total.

The president of the United States calls the shots.

The president of the United States has the authority to do what the president has the authority to do, which is very powerful.

Pressed on why he thought this was so, Trump pointed to "numerous provisions" in the Constitution. You can imagine him later fervently looking for some clause that said: "The president can hereby do whatever he wants to do, and everyone else has to obey him," but then again even that's a stretch -- since we all know he'd never make it all the way through a reading of the Constitution without getting bored. Of course, no such clause actually exists, outside of Trump's brain.

He then took to Twitter to expand his claim of total authority:

For the purpose of creating conflict and confusion, some in the Fake News Media are saying that it is the Governors [sic] decision to open up the states, not that of the President of the United States & the Federal Government. Let it be fully understood that this is incorrect... It is the decision of the President, and for many good reasons.

Trump, of course, is the one who is incorrect. As Twitter was happy to point out.

The next day, Trump tried to have it both ways. He stated that he would be "authorizing" the governors to make their own decisions, rather than making the decisions for them. But this was just as ludicrous, since he has no authority to authorize what the governors are already fully empowered to do. Which was pointed out on Twitter, with glee. And by a few actual governors as well:

Trump did a "very graceful 180" when he went from saying he had total authority to reopen the nation's economy to instead saying states would form their own plans, [New York Governor Andrew] Cuomo said mockingly.

"By the way, it was always up to the states, what are you going to grant me what the Constitution gave me before you were born?" he said. "I don't need the president of the United States to tell me that I'm governor and I don't need the president of the United States to tell me the powers of a state."

Trump's really "doing nothing" in his acknowledgment of states' power, Cuomo continued.

"All he's doing is walking in front of the parade, but he has nothing to do with the timing of the parade," he said. "Governors are going to open when they need to open."

By Thursday, "the president of the United States calls the shots" had morphed into Trump telling the governors on the phone: "You're going to call your own shots," which was always true in the first place. The entire week was wasted on this pointless and inane drama.

Trump had initially seen himself being the savior, announcing to the country that everything would go back to normal on the first of May. Yesterday, Trump still tried to claim some credit by issuing pathetically vague "guidelines," which contained less detail that previous reports from the C.D.C. and FEMA already had publicly given. At the heart of the guidelines was the ability to test millions of people, which simply does not yet exist. So we spent a week teaching Trump that he's not a king and got for the effort a whole lot of drama and a weak set of guidelines that already existed in much greater detail. About par for Trump's course, really.

Somewhere in there, Trump decided to cut off all funding for the World Health Organization, too. In Trump's mind, every crisis has to have a villain, and he's been flailing about trying to pin all the blame on anyone but him. His beef with the W.H.O.? They said nice things about China, and praised their transparency. As usual with Trump, there's a tweet for that. From January:

China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency. It will all work out well. In particular, on behalf of the American People, I want to thank President Xi!

In other words, Trump's mad at the W.H.O. for doing exactly what he did in January.

It was also announced this week that the paper $1,200 checks will be issued with Donald Trump's name on them -- a change that delayed sending them out. Again, par for the course for the egomaniac-in-chief.

Oh, and Trump once again had to say he wasn't going to fire Dr. Fauci, after tweeting with the hashtag "#FireFauci." Because of course he did.

But let's get away from the Trumpian drama, because the real crisis is still unfolding, and it needs to be spotlighted before it'll get better. So let's see where we are now on the question of adequate testing, shall we? Of course, this was addressed by Trump's new "reopen America" plan, right?

Governors have said one of the most important factors in making those determinations is testing data, but Trump's plan does not contain a national testing strategy. Senior administration officials said that although the federal government will try to facilitate access to tests, states and localities will be responsible for developing and administering their own testing programs.

Leaders across sectors, from elected officials to business executives to public-health experts, have amplified warnings this week that the nation is not ready to reopen in part because its testing system is woefully inadequate.

. . .

Federal officials are still getting requests from private laboratories for help obtaining the necessary reagents to conduct tests, a person involved in the task force said. Meanwhile, the American Hospital Association has raised concerns with the administration about a lack of testing supplies.

There also is no single administration official working on testing. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus coordinator, has been communicating with hospitals and states about testing protocols, while Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and senior adviser, has been running point with industry.

The government has been unable to compel test manufacturers to dramatically increase the number of tests produced, and Trump has been unwilling to invoke the Defense Production Act for that purpose. States are also still struggling with acute supply shortages for tests, including swabs and reagents, that Washington has not addressed.

. . .

On the conference call Thursday with governors, Trump played down the significance of testing.

"Testing is very interesting," Trump said, according to the audio recording obtained by The [Washington] Post. "There are some states where I think you can do with a lot less testing than other people are suggesting." He told the governors that they have "a lot of leeway" in determining how many tests they conduct.

Trump has heralded a new rapid-response test from Abbott Laboratories that can deliver results in as few as five minutes, and has taken pride in his administration's role helping distribute the machines nationwide. But when Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) said they got the "great Abbott machines" two weeks ago but still don't have testing kits required to use them, Trump replied that the states are "going to lead the testing."

So how's the idea of letting all the states fend for themselves been going so far? Well, let's take a look at one state's experience:

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis was pleading with the federal government to send ventilators.

The state was starting to see hundreds of new coronavirus cases pop up each day, and Polis, a Democrat, worried that hospitals wouldn't have enough life-saving ventilators to deal with the looming spike.

So he made an official request for ventilators through the Federal Emergency Management System, which is managing the effort. That went nowhere. He wrote to Vice President Mike Pence, leader of the White House's coronavirus task force. That didn't work. He tried to purchase supplies himself. The federal government swooped in and bought them.

Then, on Tuesday, five weeks after the state's first coronavirus case, the state's Republican Sen. Cory Gardner called President Donald Trump. The federal government sent 100 ventilators to Colorado the next day, but still only a fraction of what the state wanted.

The federal government's haphazard approach to distributing its limited supplies has left states trying everything -- filling out lengthy FEMA applications, calling Trump, contacting Pence, sending messages to Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law, and trade adviser Peter Navarro, who are both leading different efforts to find supplies, according to local and states officials in more than a half-dozen states. They're even asking mutual friends to call Trump or sending him signals on TV and Twitter.

Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't.

. . .

Trump has faced withering criticism that he failed to adequately prepare the country for the coronavirus outbreak after receiving warnings as early as January. Since then, the administration has struggled to provide states with enough tests and provide the proper medical equipment for patients and first responders.

"It's not clear to us who is making decisions. It looks like continuing chaos at the highest levels," said Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Democratic member of the House Oversight Committee whose state, Maryland, has had its own disputes with federal officials over the delivery of supplies. "Every state is in charge of its own destiny."

Trump initially indicated states should try to buy supplies themselves, but they found themselves competing with each other and the federal government as they scoured the globe for supplies. The president then said he would distribute some supplies, but a failure to start the process earlier and put a single agency in charge exacerbated manufacturing and distribution problems, according to local, state and federal officials.

Frustrated governors are now considering whether to create a multistate consortium to oversee the purchase and distribution of supplies.

"I'm bidding on a machine that Illinois is bidding on and California is bidding on and Florida is bidding on. We're all bidding up each other," Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday at a briefing. "I'm trying to figure out how to do business with China where I have no natural connection as a state. And every state has to scramble to find business connections with China. It was crazy, that can't happen again."

That's right -- Trump's vacuum of leadership is causing governors to consider creating a "multistate consortium." Remember when the United States of America was the only "multistate consortium" we ever thought we'd need?

Let's check in with an expert who knows exactly what he's talking about to hear his view of where we are now:

Ronald Klain, who headed the Obama administration's response to the Ebola epidemic, warned that President Donald Trump's White House risks making the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. even worse with its ongoing lack of testing.

Klain, dubbed the Ebola czar after former President Barack Obama tasked him with leading the U.S. response to the Ebola epidemic, told MSNBC's Nicole Wallace on Thursday that increased testing was crucial to slowing the spread of the contagion that has killed more than 34,000 people nationwide.

But "as a matter of math, our progress towards the goal is not going to ever get there because we're going backwards," Klain said. "We're going to test fewer people in America this week than we did last week."

"We're not on a path to solve this problem, we're on a path to make this problem worse," Klain added. "That's because the president doesn't want to take leadership of these tests, he said that the tests are up to the states."

Klain noted that governors did not have "the power, the ability to direct the manufacturers to make the different components" of the "complicated" testing kits, urging Trump to invoke the Defense Production Act to step up efforts or see a "continued miasma on testing that is not going to get better."

What's he talking about? Fewer tests? Politico had the story:

Politico earlier this week first reported commercial lab testing has dramatically slowed, dropping from 108,000 tests run on April 5 to 75,000 on April 12, despite rising cases of coronavirus in many parts of the country. A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services also told Politico on Tuesday that the department had seen a downtick in nationwide testing in recent days.

The American Clinical Laboratory Association, which represents commercial labs, praised efforts to increase testing capacity but slammed the Trump administration and Congress for not laying out clear testing goals. Commercial labs say they are sitting on excess capacity and are ready to do more testing.

"We need to look to the future -- the time is now to agree on what testing is needed and at what volumes, and put in place the resources to enable it to happen," ACLA President Julie Khani said. "That takes federal leadership."

Former FDA Commissioners Mark McClellan and Scott Gottlieb argued in a recent white paper that a robust sentinel surveillance system will be needed to stop new outbreaks of coronavirus in the future once the current epidemic is under control.

Gottlieb told Politico up to 3.8 million tests per week may be needed as part of that effort. In the past week, the United States conducted just over 1 million tests.

So we just need to instantly get four times more productive. Sure -- no problem!

Even Lindsey Graham has realized what a mess it all is, although he certainly isn't willing to lay any blame on the White House while cheerily predicting it'll all get better real soon now:

On what we need to do better, I think the key to me is testing. I can't really blame the president, but we are struggling with testing on a large scale. You can't really go back to work until we have more tests that shows who has it and who doesn't, and we're beginning to turn the corner on that.

We have no idea why Graham is so optimistic, since Trump is so obviously failing even on meeting its own goals. We also have no idea why Trump is trying to inject politics into the decision to reopen the states, as if states that reopen faster are somehow better than the ones harder hit. This has become a standard talking point among conservatives, although sometimes they go a wee bit too far. Here's noted television quack Dr. Oz, on Fox News recently:

"I just saw a nice piece in The Lancet arguing the opening of schools may only cost us 2-3%, in terms of total mortality," explained Oz, referencing a percentage that suggests thousands could potentially die. As of Thursday, there are more than 600,000 confirmed cases in the U.S., and more than 26,000 deaths. Worldwide, more than 140,000 have died, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins university.

"Any, you know, any life is a life lost, but to get every child back into a school where they're safely being educated, being fed, and making the most out of their lives, with the theoretical risk on the back side. That might be a tradeoff some folks would consider."

Hey, only two or three dead kids in a hundred is pretty good, right? I'm sure American moms and dads will take that gamble!

The public, however, is not convinced. In fact, two-thirds of them want the government to go slower rather than faster in reopening things back up. Two-thirds also responded that the White House and Donald Trump had acted too slowly to take major steps to stop the spread of the virus. And that was in a poll taken more than five days ago, before things got even worse.

Trump knows his re-election is going to hinge on how he is seen during this crisis. Will it become known as "Trump's Katrina"? He seems to be wildly trying anything and everything, swinging madly from: "L'ťtat c'est moi" to: "The buck stops anywhere but here," within a few short days.

But as time goes on, the shortage of testing is only going to become more acute and more obvious. If widespread testing is needed to reopen states and that testing is simply not available, then people will direct their frustration and anger at the lack of leadership which led to yet another preventable fiasco in the midst of a crisis. If Donald Trump had invoked the Defense Production Act two months ago and put someone in charge of testing supplies nationwide, we would be in a much better place now. But he still hasn't done so, and it doesn't look like he's ever going to.

Instead, we get propaganda and grandiose plans with few if any details, in an effort to shift all responsibility to the governors. This is not leadership. This is the absence of leadership. With 22 million people already on unemployment in the past month, we can only hope that come November, Donald Trump will be the one who finds himself out of a job.

We'd first like to give an Honorable Mention to all the Democrats in Wisconsin who got so angry that their state's Republicans made them risk their lives to vote that they turned out in droves anyway. The Democrats handily won the election that the Republicans were trying to rig, for a state supreme court seat.

This backlash could prove to be important, which we wrote about earlier in the week. Since we wrote that article, we also read a similar take on it in the Washington Post. In short: because Republicans tried to suppress turnout to give themselves a partisan advantage and it didn't work because of voter backlash, maybe this will give other states' Republicans pause, if they're considering similar tactics in November.

But our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week is none other than President Barack Obama.

Obama leapt off the sidelines this week, after his self-imposed and entirely proper recusal from the Democratic primary race. Now that everyone has dropped out but Joe Biden, Obama gave his full endorsement, the key sentence of which was that choosing Biden for his own veep was the smartest decision he made. Biden had his own commendable week, rolling out endorsements from Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren as well, we should add.

But it wasn't Obama's endorsement of Biden or his condemnation of Trump (without naming him) that was so impressive. No, what won him the award was that he just looked so damn presidential, once again.

His 12-minute video has already been seen by millions. Most of them are probably having the same reaction we did, which was:

"Remember when our president could form a complete and correct English sentence, without turning adverbs and adjectives into nouns, willy-nilly? Remember when our president could rationally explain things, and you felt comfortable knowing that he knew what he was talking about better than you -- because he had obviously done his homework? Remember press briefings that weren't consumed with the president's vast and fragile ego? Remember when governors could disagree with the president without worrying that they'd be left high and dry in a crisis out of petty vengeance? Remember when our president didn't have public temper tantrums? Remember when our president was actually a role model for children? Remember when a president actually cared about the average Joe and Jane? Remember when our president didn't insult and attack female reporters from the podium? Remember? Man, those were the days!"

Many people had forgotten how a real president sounds, after three long years of relentless idiocy from the Oval Office's current occupant. Hearing Obama was like a breath of fresh air. And for that alone, Obama more than deserves the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week, hands down.

[Barack Obama is a private citizen, and it is our standing policy not to provide contact information for such people, so you'll have to search him out online if you'd like to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]

Once again, we are left without much disappointment at any particular Democrat this week. Democrats usually react pretty well in times of crisis, and this seems to be holding true for now.

Nancy Pelosi is in danger of dropping the ball next week, if she doesn't make her case for why Democrats are fighting the Republicans for the next round of stimulus. She has her reasons, but she hasn't been making all that great a case for them. Of course, it's hard to break through all the Trump drama, so perhaps this will get better next week. But now that the paycheck fund at the Treasury is dry, the pressure is only going to increase.

But for now, we're once again putting the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week back on the shelf. As always in such situations, feel free to nominate someone in the comments below, if you think we've missed someone obvious.

Volume 570 (4/17/20)

Another rant this week, because it was once again that kind of week. Oh, before we get to it, two footnotes that didn't fit anywhere else:

The Republicans for the Rule of Law group of anti-Trumpers has a new ad slamming Trump for crowning himself emperor, which is certainly worth a view. They say they're going to run it on Fox And Friends, so maybe Trump will actually see it.

Also from Fox, a choice reminder from Bret Baier of something we've said too many times to count in these talking points over the past three years (he was also responding to the idea of King Donald): "If President Obama had said those words that you heard from President Trump -- that the authority is total with the presidency -- you know, conservatives' heads would've exploded across the board." At least he's honest, unlike both most of his colleagues at Fox and the president himself.

With that, we move on to our rant.

Testing... Testing...

Where are the tests?

I really can't do it everyday, but every so often I tune in to the daily presidential propaganda show... oh, excuse me, I must have meant: "the coronavirus task force briefing," sorry... just to hear some fresh lies from Our Dear Leader. Or his minions. But I do wish one of the reporters in the press briefing room would ask one simple question: "Where are the tests you promised over a month ago?"

Here is a direct quote from President Trump, given on March 6, as he toured the C.D.C. headquarters:

Anybody that wants a test can get a test. That's what the bottom line is.... Anybody right now and yesterday -- anybody that needs a test gets a test. We -- they're there. They have the tests. And the tests are beautiful. Anybody that needs a test gets a test.

That was not true then, and it is not true now, six weeks later. It was a lie. It will not be true at any point in the near future, either. We just don't have the tests. But we were promised them, almost as long ago. Here is Vice President Mike Pence, on March 9, making a very concrete promise to America:

Over a million tests have been distributed... before the end of this week, another 4 million tests will be distributed.

This was reported in the Washington Post in an article whose title ended with: "...As U.S. Cases Top 700," just to remind everyone how long ago that was (for the mathematically-minded: that is a whopping three orders of magnitude ago, since we're now at 700,000 cases).

"Before the end of the week" would have been some time before March 13. That's when we were promised five million tests. And here it is, a whopping five weeks later, and the Trump team of toadies is patting the Dear Leader on the back for having performed a total of just over three million tests. They now promise us they can do a million tests in a week, so it'll only be two more weeks before we hit the point that Mike Pence promised we would be at on March 13. Meaning that instead of "before the end of the week," it will take a whopping eight weeks to get where Pence promised we'd be in less than one.

These are nothing short of lies. But nobody seems to be paying much attention to them. Which is why I'd dearly love to see one of those White House reporters ask about this in point-blank fashion. Something along the lines of: "Why did you lie about the numbers back then and why should we trust any numbers you tell us now?"

Testing is the key to understanding the spread of the coronavirus. Testing is the key to knowing when it will be safe to relax social distancing and slowly begin to open things back up. But so far -- over two months into the crisis -- we still don't have our act together on providing enough tests. And now everyone wants to talk about a new antibodies test -- one that hasn't even begun to be rolled out yet -- as the one thing which will allow states to return to normal. But the sheer scale of testing necessary is staggering, and what we've seen so far is not encouraging in the least.

We're now told the country is doing over 100,000 tests a day, for a total of a million a week. Let's assume for the sake of argument that that's true, even though there are reports that labs are actually doing fewer tests. To test every single person in America at that rate would mean it would only take us a little over six years to do so. Six years! Some scientists are saying to safely reopen society we'll need to do something more on the order of a million tests per day -- not per week. If we increased sevenfold what we've got now, then it would only take roughly a year to test everyone. It would take something on the order of ten million tests per day to shrink that down to a little over a month's time. According to Nobel Laureate Paul Romer, "to screen the United State's entire population of 330 million, capacity would need to reach 22 million tests per day." And, more that two months into the crisis, does anyone really think we're about to magically ramp production up to even a tiny fraction of that?

Alarm bells are ringing. Red flags are being waved. The federal government's abdication of responsibility in the face of a crisis is nothing short of disgraceful. Terms like "woefully inadequate" and "chaos at the highest level" don't even begin to describe what is going on. Individual states are considering forming a multistate consortium to fix the problem. Funny, I thought we all formed the greatest multistate consortium of all back in 1776. But now, there is simply no one at the helm. Nobody is in charge of the store. There isn't even a single point person in the White House dedicated to providing tests to states that need them. A total abdication of duty, in other words, from Team Trump.

Here's how Barack Obama's "Ebola czar" recently put it: "We're not on a path to solve this problem, we're on a path to make this problem worse. That's because the president doesn't want to take leadership of these tests, he said that the tests are up to the states."

President Trump could have invoked the Defense Production Act back in January to assure plenty of tests would be available, and to streamline the distribution system. He didn't do so. He could have acted in February. He failed to do so. He could have acted in March. He refused to do so. He could have done so instead of bizarrely proclaiming himself king this week, but I guess he got distracted.

This still needs to happen. This need is going to get even more acute, until it becomes desperate. Otherwise we'll keep having situations where a governor gets the wonderful five-minute test machines but can't actually use them because he didn't get the supplies needed to run the tests. This is insane.

Donald Trump seems to only care about one thing, and that is not getting blamed for the growing heap of bad decisions and delays that have made the crisis much worse. He wants the states to reopen not because he cares about any of the people living there (or their safety), but because he cares about his chances of getting re-elected.

The only semi-believable person in the pack of liars surrounding the president is Dr. Anthony Fauci, who fully admits "we're not there yet" on testing. He is forced to always err on the side of optimism (otherwise Trump will send out another angry "#FireFauci" tweet), but when talking about the two types of tests needed, he had to be semi-realistic: "We're going to have both of those much, much better as we go in the next weeks and months. And by the time we get into the fall, I think we're going to be in pretty good shape." Got that? By the fall -- or six months from now.

The only thing that gives me a small degree of hope is what seems to be a growing interest in the media to expose how inadequate the testing has been up to this point, and still is going forward. And that's before we even start talking about the antibodies tests -- which, once again, hasn't even started to ramp up production. The more journalists begin bluntly asking: "Where are the tests?" the better, in my opinion, since Trump doesn't believe anything he doesn't see on television.

They can start with: "Where are the tests you and the vice president promised over a month ago?" That'd be a dandy place to begin. Then we could move along to more-pertinent questions for the future, like: "How many tests per week is enough to guarantee that anyone who wants to get tested can get tested?" After all, that is precisely what Trump promised six weeks ago. Then we can take a real look forward: "How many antibody tests per week will be required to let us know when it truly is safe to reopen the economy? One million? Ten million? Twenty million?" And finish with the question everyone really wants answered: "OK, so when will we get to that point, where we're actually making and shipping that many tests to every state that needs them?"

Those are the questions I'd like answered. Those are the questions to keep asking, over and over again, until we all get some answers. Preferably by someone other than Donald Trump or Mike Pence, since they're almost certainly only going to lie to us again.

Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
Follow Chris on Twitter: ChrisWeigant
Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com
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