Editor’s Note: This was originally published as the June 18 edition of CNN’s Meanwhile in America, the daily email about US politics for global readers. Click here to read past editions and subscribe.
Vice President Mike Pence, helming a disinformation campaign to convince Americans the threat from Covid-19 has largely passed, is accusing the media of hyping a “second wave” of infections. Unfortunately, the US hasn’t even exited the first wave yet – not least because of the denial and mismanagement that has plagued its response to the virus.
As epicenters like New York and New Jersey emerge from weeks of tragedy, the virus has simply found other targets. Texas, Arizona, and Florida – Republican-run states that embraced President Donald Trump’s demands to reopen – are now experiencing record rates of new infections. Trump is meanwhile going ahead with an indoor rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Saturday, even though it offers ideal conditions to spread the virus.
The truth is that the US is nowhere near the end of its fight with Covid-19, as comparisons with other countries make clear. While nations like South Korea, Germany, Japan and Italy saw a steep rise in infections, they are now well down the other side of the mountain. The US meanwhile has plateaued at a high level, and the chart of its daily infections looks more like a trek along an Alpine range rather than a single peak.
There’s clearly a price to pay when the President’s concern for the economy – that is so vital for his reelection hopes – leads him to flout his own government’s advice on re-opening and on wearing a mask. As Dr. Ashish Jha, director of Harvard’s Global Health Institute, put it: “We may be done with a pandemic, but the pandemic is not done with us.”
Spot the difference
What’s in the Bolton book
Trump on Wednesday signed the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020, a bill that calls for eventual sanctions against perpetrators of human rights abuses against China’s ethnic Uyghur population. It seems like a huge coincidence that this emerged at almost the same moment as a former national security advisor’s claim that Trump once encouraged Chinese President Xi Jinping to build detention camps in the Uyghur homeland of western Xinjiang province. The revelation was part of an excerpt of John Bolton’s forthcoming book, published by The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday.
“At the opening dinner of the Osaka G-20 meeting in June 2019, with only interpreters present, Xi had explained to Trump why he was basically building concentration camps in Xinjiang,” Bolton wrote. “According to our interpreter, Trump said that Xi should go ahead with building the camps, which Trump thought was exactly the right thing to do.”
The passage also offers Bolton’s observations on Trump’s broader China strategy, which he describes as motivated by self-interest. “Trump’s conversations with Xi reflected not only the incoherence in his trade policy but also the confluence in Trump’s mind of his own political interests and US national interests,” he wrote.
“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.”
As US anti-racism protests continue to be felt globally, the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last month reverberated in Geneva, Damascus and Brussels on Wednesday – though not always in solidarity with the cause.
‘I am asking you to help us’
George Floyd’s brother appealed to the United Nations “to help black people in America.” Prompted by a coalition of African member states, the United Nations Human Rights Council held an urgent debate Wednesday on police brutality and systemic racism in the US. In a video message, Philonise Floyd, addressed the gathering in Geneva: “I am asking you (the UN) to help him. I am asking you to help me. I am asking you to help us – black people in America.”
‘We need to send a strong signal to the US, but also sweep in front of our own door’
The European Parliament began with a moment of silence for Floyd before opening the floor to members to discuss their own experiences with police brutality. Germany’s Dr. Pierrette Herzberger-Fofana, of the Greens/European Free Alliance, described being searched by police who refused to believe she was an MEP “even though he had my two passports in his hand.”
“I have experienced racism. I’ve been surrounded by 14 neo-Nazis shouting at me. I frequently get stopped at airports. Once I was even separated from my friends for hours. I hear prejudiced remarks about black people. But then, ‘You are an exception,’ and I say, ‘No. I am not,’” said Luxembourg’s Monica Semedo, of the Renew Party.
“A few days after the killing of George Floyd I was putting my youngest daughter to bed. She shuffled away and went silent and asked me, ‘Will they kill me too?’” said Sweden’s Alice Kuhnke, of the Greens/European Free Alliance. “We need to send a strong signal to the US, but also to sweep in front of our own door.”
‘The last one who has the right to talk about human rights’
The US unrolled aggressive sanctions Wednesday against Syria’s Assad regime, which has been accused of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity on a vast scale in order to quash Syria’s armed opposition. An official source at Syria’s Foreign and Expatriates Ministry responded to the sanctions with a jibe at US moral authority, seeming to reference Floyd’s death: “The US administration, which hunts its citizens in the streets of its states, kills people and practices the ugliest forms of discrimination, is the last one who has the right to talk about the human rights,” he told state-run news agency SANA.