Hard of Hearing

It was an odd day in Washington, because what happened wasn’t there, it was everywhere, connected by video from around the nation – a somewhat virtual Senate hearing with everyone talking into cameras with only a few of the senators in the Senate hearing room. The nation is still locked down. That’s the problem and that was the problem under discussion. Politico covered this, and opened with this:

Anthony Fauci came to the Senate, virtually, to issue a dire warning against reopening the country too soon amid the deadly coronavirus pandemic. But his message fell flat with some of his intended audience.

Republicans, led by President Donald Trump, are eager to revive the flailing economy. And resuming commerce at some level this spring and summer is central to the GOP’s message that it can turn around the economy before November. They’re also aiming to do so without adopting House Democrats’ plans for more multi-trillion-dollar stimulus bills.

But Fauci’s Tuesday testimony clashes with the GOP’s vision, and it is fueling growing fatigue among Republicans with one of the government’s most trusted public health leaders at a critical moment.

They want everything to be all better. They don’t want to spend any more money on any of this. Their man, their president, says go for it – open everything up. And the man the nation trusts now more than anyone on these matters, this Fauci guy, says no – don’t do it – it’s too dangerous. And all the damned doctors and scientist in the world agree with him, not with the president. And their constituents are useless – the Trump base loves Trump, and also thinks Fauci is kind of cool and right about not moving too fast. And of course Trump gets angry easily and could ruin them. But that Republican base could ruin them if they mock Fauci – or if they use Fauci to show up Trump.

They’re stuck, and CNN provides the details:

Republican senators are conceding that Dr. Anthony Fauci’s testimony warning about moving too quickly to reopen the US economy is inconsistent with President Donald Trump’s push to “liberate” various states and quickly get the country back to business.

But the GOP is split about whether Trump should be more cautious with his own public statements or if it’s Fauci who is being too much of an alarmist, as Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky appears to be asserting.

“Surely the testimony is more nuanced than the President’s statements,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which hosted Fauci at its hearing Tuesday. Cassidy added the decision to reopen needs to be “data driven.”

Asked about Trump’s calls to “liberate” states, Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, another member of the committee, said: “I think we need to follow the experts here.”

Others later pushed back at Fauci. “I think he may not realize that in advocating for extreme closure of things, the punishment that’s happening to our country, and we really need to get opening back up,” Paul told CNN.

So they split on this. “We need to follow the experts here.” And there’s the Rand Paul view that Anthony Fauci is an arrogant little bastard, thinking he knows everything, and not even considering that Donald Trump may actually know more about infectious diseases and epidemiology than all the “experts” in the world combined. Who does this Fauci think he is?

It wasn’t that dramatic of course, but it was time to choose sides, so many became ambiguous:

Fauci’s testimony warning of “serious” consequences if states move too quickly put some GOP senators in an awkward spot as they try to defend the President’s handling of the crisis while also ensuring their states are not placed at a greater risk by reopening.

“I think they both have a good point,” said Texas Sen. John Cornyn, a member of the Senate GOP leadership team.

When asked if he’s encouraging his state not to listen to Trump’s messaging on liberating states, GOP Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado – who is up for reelection in the fall – said: “We have to listen to our health experts. That’s what we’re doing.”

That’s not going to cut it:

Fauci’s high-profile testimony Tuesday is hardly the first time that Trump has been at sharp odds with his own health advisers – whether it’s touting Covid-19 treatments that his own task force had yet to embrace, predicting the virus would disappear with warm weather, or overstating the country’s capacity to test for the disease.

But as states begin to partially reopen, Trump’s message has often gone well beyond the advice from leading experts – namely Fauci, the federal government’s top infectious disease expert – going as far as accusing Democrats of seeking to keep the country closed to hurt him politically.

That laid it on the line. Anyone who wants to keep the country closed one bit more for even one day more is part of a coordinated national campaign to hurt Donald Trump, both personally and politically – period – end of story. So choose sides:

Fauci, in his testimony, made clear his concerns if states don’t follow the phased approach for reopening laid out by the White House task force’s guidelines.

“There’s a real risk you will trigger an outbreak that you might not be able to control,” Fauci said Tuesday…

Paul, a member of the committee, said that Fauci is just “one voice” and that his comments should not be given a “disproportionate” amount of attention…

There are experts. There is Donald Trump. Give them equal weight.

The choices for Republicans just got harder, and there was this in Michigan:

Armed members of the Michigan Home Guard stood outside Karl Manke’s barber shop, ready to blockade the door if police arrived. They were determined to help Manke, 77, reopen his shop Monday, in defiance of state orders, and dozens joined them, wearing Trump sweatshirts and Trump cowboy hats and waving Trump flags.

They gathered not because they desperately needed haircuts but to rail against Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s approach to fighting the coronavirus outbreak in Michigan, one of the nation’s worst hot spots. They were channeling President Trump’s support of such protests, but some also were taking aim at the state’s Republicans, who they say have not done enough to “liberate” the state from safety measures that have ground life to a halt.

Michelle Gregoire, a 29-year-old school bus driver from Battle Creek who is running as a Republican for a seat in the state House, waved a yellow “Don’t tread on me” flag at passing traffic. She derided Whitmer as “a tyrant.”

But she didn’t drive to Lansing and shoot Whitmer dead. The problem was the same as at that Senate hearing:

The protest and others like it – including two last month that included demonstrators with swastikas, Confederate flags and some with long guns inside the capitol – have alarmed lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. But after Trump appeared to urge the militia members on, tweeting that they are “very good people” who “want their lives back again,” they have forced Michigan’s Republican lawmakers to strike a delicate balance, managing a deadly virus while also being careful not to contradict Trump or alienate their conservative supporters.

Though the coronavirus has infected more than 48,000 people in Michigan and has killed 4,674 as of Tuesday – the fourth-highest total in the nation – many of the protesters live in areas that have barely been touched by the virus but have been struggling with economic collapse because of it. GOP state lawmakers, who hold narrow margins in both the state House and Senate, have tried distancing themselves from the most vocal protesters while being careful not to appear to hew too closely to Whitmer’s shutdown policies.

That may be impossible, given the way the wind is blowing now:

Generally, residents of Michigan agree with Whitmer’s approach, according to a Washington Post-Ipsos poll released Tuesday, in which 72 percent approve of her handling of the outbreak, and 25 percent disapprove. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) got the highest marks – 86 percent approval – but in general, Republican governors did not fare well in the poll, with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, who moved to open the state early, getting an approval rating of just 39 percent.

Whitmer said in an interview Tuesday that she worries Republican state lawmakers, who have said she does not have the authority to continue her coronavirus executive order, are pushing people to violate it.

“They are feeding a lot into the behavior,” Whitmer said. “We would be so much better off if everyone with a platform focused on the science and less about politics.”

That would be better, but the president has explicitly said, over and over, that taking up arms and using those arms to make sure no state can enforced its laws, if any of those laws anger even one citizen, is patriotism, fighting for liberty, against oppression. The political theory here, such as it is, seems to be that no government has any right to enforce its laws. People like this law or that and follow that law. It’s a voluntary thing. If they don’t like this law or that, they have guns. It is possible that Trump didn’t think this through.

Well, he was busy. The Washington Post’s Toluse Olorunnipa explains that:

Since writing “HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY” at 8:10 a.m. on Sunday, Trump has used his Twitter account to make or elevate allegations of criminal conduct against no less than 20 individuals and organizations. Since Sunday, he has tweeted more often about alleged crimes by his perceived opponents than he has about the pandemic ravaging the country with mass death and unemployment.

The list of purported culprits Trump has charged include two television news hosts, a comedian, at least five former officials from the FBI and Justice Department, the state of California, a broadcast television station and at least five top national security officials from President Barack Obama’s administration.

Trump tweeted multiple times about alleged criminal activity against him by Obama but struggled to elaborate beyond his frequent references to “Obamagate.”

Well, he’s not a “details” guy, and really, there’s nothing new here:

Throughout his presidency, which has been plagued with its own mix of scandals, investigations and guilty pleas, Trump has claimed that his enemies were the ones truly worthy of prosecution.

“The other side is where there are crimes,” Trump said on April 9, 2018, the day news broke that the office of his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, had been raided by the FBI. Cohen later pleaded guilty to several felonies including campaign finance violations, implicating Trump.

Trump responded by insinuating that investigators should investigate Cohen’s father-in-law, though he did not identify any crime.

And so it goes:

Since taking office, Trump has casually accused multiple people of treason, ranging from former FBI director James B. Comey to the American media. He has regularly accused people of perjury or mishandling classified information, usually without evidence. He has said former secretary of state John F. Kerry “should be prosecuted” for an alleged violation of the Logan Act, a rarely invoked law preventing private citizens from conducting diplomacy on behalf of the U.S. government, due to his interactions with Iranian officials. Kerry has called Trump’s allegation “another presidential lie.”

When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) ripped up Trump’s State of the Union speech in February, Trump said the act of defiance was criminal in nature.

“First of all, it’s an official document, you’re not allowed, it’s illegal what she did,” Trump said. “She broke the law.”

She didn’t.

When House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) read an embellished version of a phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a congressional hearing in September, Trump suggested he should be arrested.

“Why isn’t Congressman Adam B. Schiff being brought up on charges for fraudulently making up a statement and reading it to Congress as if this statement, which was very dishonest and bad for me, was directly made by the President of the United States? This should never be allowed!” the president wrote.

Trump doesn’t get irony, and he doesn’t do irony either. He just gets mean:

Donald Trump on Tuesday explicitly suggested MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough had committed murder, prompting the morning cable news host to urge the president in real time to stop watching his program “for the sake of America.”

Following a segment on the network’s “Morning Joe” talk show that featured discussion of upcoming Senate testimony by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, as well as critical comments from Scarborough regarding the White House’s coronavirus response, Trump lashed out in a tweet posted just before 7 a.m.

“When will they open a Cold Case on the Psycho Joe Scarborough matter in Florida? Did he get away with murder? Some people think so,” Trump wrote. “Why did he leave Congress so quietly and quickly? Isn’t it obvious? What’s happening now? A total nut job!”

The short version of this is that Scarborough, in his morning commentary, told Trump to listen to Fauci, and Trump sneered back that Scarborough had murdered a sweet young girl and everyone knew it. The long version is this:

Trump was apparently referring to the 2001 death of Lori Klausutis, who worked as a staffer in Scarborough’s Fort Walton Beach, Fla., office when he served as a Republican House lawmaker from the state’s 1st Congressional District.

Klausutis’ autopsy revealed she had an undiagnosed heart condition, and a coroner concluded she died after passing out and hitting her head in a fall. She was not struck by another person, the coroner said, and Scarborough was in Washington at the time of her death.

But that doesn’t seem to matter:

Trump has previously floated the conspiracy theory that the former congressman and current MSNBC personality was involved in Klausutis’ death, tweeting last Monday that the Comcast Corp., “should open up a long overdue Florida Cold Case against Psycho Joe Scarborough.”

Scarborough at the time called that provocation by the president “extraordinarily cruel,” and issued a similar on-air response Tuesday after being alerted to Trump’s inflammatory tweet while broadcasting live.

“For your sake, as I’ve been saying for years – Donald, for your sake, and for the sake of America, you need to stop watching our show, okay? It’s not good for you. I think that might be why you go out and, like – you’re distracted. You’re tweeting so much,” Scarborough said.

“Why don’t you turn off the television, and why don’t you start working, okay?” he continued. “You do your job, we’ll do ours, and America will be much better off for that. Just go. Turn off the TV, Donald.”

That’s not going to happen:

Prior to his attack on Scarborough, Trump had already tweeted eight times Tuesday morning – including another post invoking “ColdCaseJoe!” and messages denigrating House Speaker “Crazy Nancy” Pelosi, “Fake Journalists” and “Sleepy Eyes” Chuck Todd of NBC News. He also wrote of comedian Bill Maher’s late-night HBO talk show: “Ratings way down, show sucks!”

With eighty thousand dead, and counting, and the economy collapsing, this was the president, in action, and David Frum, who worked for an actual president, the second Bush, had this to say:

Trump horribly and uniquely bungled the coronavirus crisis. The human result is mass death and Great Depression-scale unemployment. The political result is that while leaders in Britain and almost everywhere else in the democratic world have been boosted by a surge in public support and approval, Trump has not. The governors who have clashed with Trump have seen their poll numbers rise; New York Governor Andrew Cuomo may now be the most popular politician in the country. Governors who support Trump, like Florida’s Ron DeSantis and Georgia’s Brian Kemp, have seen their numbers tumble.

Trump trails Joe Biden in national polls by at least five points, as he has done all year. Trump is even lagging behind in swing-state polls. He is down by three points in Florida, five in North Carolina, and seven in Pennsylvania and Michigan. An internal Republican National Committee poll of the 16 least-decided states shows Trump behind in virtually all of them – so much so that he seems likely to drag the Republican Senate majority down with him.

Trump’s psychology is defined by his terror of rejection. The most stinging insult in his vast vocabulary of disdain is loser. And yet every poll and every powerful Biden TV ad forces Trump to contemplate that he is headed toward a historic humiliation. He’ll stand with Jimmy Carter and Herbert Hoover, the incumbents rejected because they failed to manage economic crises.

And everyone can see what happened:

Trump failed to prevent the crisis. Out of envy and spite, he dismantled the pandemic-warning apparatus his predecessors had bequeathed him.

Trump failed to manage the crisis. At every turn, he gave priority to the short-term management of the stock market instead.

Trump failed to message the crisis. He not only lacks empathy; he despises empathy.

And that, in turn, explains the tweets:

Angry, scared, and aggrieved by the lack of praise for his efforts, Trump turns for safety to television, where his two-dimensional friends explain how everything is everybody else’s fault. They tell him that he is right and all his critics are wrong. They promise that miracle drugs will – poof! – make all his troubles vanish without effort. Sean and Tucker and Laura and Jeanine and the Fox & Friends romper room tell him stories that hold the terror at bay.

But those stories have drawn Trump into a twisting ghetto of craziness that is impenetrable to outsiders.

Frum says that informs the political ads:

Biden’s proliferating internet ads hit two themes over and over: the pandemic and jobs, jobs and the pandemic. Those themes are easy to understand. They carry the power of truth. Above all, they are about the viewer: You are sick or scared. You have lost your job or your business – all because Trump failed to do his job.

Trump’s messages, by contrast, are all about him. You are sick or scared. You have lost your job or your business – but let’s remember who the real victim is. Me. Me and Michael Flynn. But mostly me.

That is, of course, an absurd calculation:

The most important thing to notice about the Trump-Fox blizzard of mania is how remote it is from anything that real-world voters care about. In 2015, Trump apprehended that most Republicans were talking about things that Republican voters did not then care about: deficits, taxes, productivity, and trade. In 2015, Trump apprehended that nobody was talking about things that Republican voters did care about: immigration, drugs, and the declining status of less educated white men.

That Trump is gone. Today’s Trump has lost the plot. He’s talking about things most voters could not even understand, let alone care about. Yes, Flynn lied to the FBI. But you have to see, the FBI’s interview was not properly predicated…

Meanwhile, the country is on track to lose more people to the coronavirus than the Union lost in battle in the Civil War. Meanwhile, 33 million Americans have filed unemployment claims.

That’s why Frum predicts this:

The fairy tales Trump tells on Twitter will not conceal those consequences from the voters Trump needs.

They weren’t listening before. Now they are. And what they hear is not: Obama was mean to me. What they hear is: I cannot do this job.

That’s the general idea. The New York Daily News reports this:

Howard Stern says he and President Trump are both showmen who love a good time – and they both hate Trump supporters.

“One thing Donald loves is celebrities. He loves the famous,” Stern said on his SiriusXM show Tuesday. “He loves it. He loves to be in the mix.”

Stern, 66, hosted Trump on his radio show several times over the years and frequently saw him at social events, including the shock jock’s 2008 wedding, where he seated the then-future president next to Joan Rivers. According to Stern, Trump went anywhere famous people would be and is suffering now that Hollywood has turned its back on him. He likened the president’s predicament to an episode of “The Twilight Zone.”

“The oddity in all of this is the people Trump despises most, love him the most,” Stern said. “The people who are voting for Trump for the most part… he wouldn’t even let them in a fucking hotel. He’d be disgusted by them. Go to Mar-a-Lago. See if there are any people who look like you. I’m talking to you in the audience.”

Yes, they really should have known better:

Stern reflected on his own foray into politics, a brief gubernatorial run in 1994, and seemed to understand why Trump liked the idea of campaigning for office. But according to Stern, like himself, Trump isn’t cut out for running a government and the president’s supporters – many of whom are also Stern fans – are to blame for the country’s troubles.

“I don’t hate Donald,” Stern said. “I hate you for voting for him, for not having intelligence.”

But all is not lost:

According to Stern, Trump could still have his old life back and the two of them would be much happier.

“I do think it would be extremely patriotic of Donald to say ‘I’m in over my head and I don’t want to be president anymore,'” Stern said. “It’d be so patriotic that I’d hug him and then I’d go back to Mar-a-Lago and have a meal with him and feel good about him because it would be such an easy thing to do.”

Stern also conceded it’s highly unlikely that’s going to happen.

That’s definitely not going to happen. The Senate had that devastating hearing on life and death matters and the end of America and all the rest, but Donald Trump is hard of hearing. He was tweeting. This will not end well.

About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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