Uncharted territory. Terra incognita. That notion must have terrified the explorers of old who ventured into parts of the world where the absence of reliable nautical charts meant their ships could be wrecked at any moment on shallow rocks.
Today every morning in America seems like a trip on rough seas into unmapped territory, where a raging pandemic is spreading disease, and political leaders more often than not seem unable to guide citizens to safety. In 39 states, the number of new coronavirus cases this week exceeded the week before, straining hospitals and health care workers in many places.
The President of the United States took a hands-off approach to the biggest crisis the nation has faced in decades and let his administration throw potshots at Dr. Anthony Fauci, the infectious disease expert who remains a trusted authority. A smiling Donald Trump posed behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office, endorsing a lineup of Goya food products after the chief executive of that company declared his support for the President. The governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, said he favored wearing masks, but signed an executive order Wednesday countermanding masks mandates imposed by local officials in his state. And a day later he sued the mayor of Atlanta, Keisha Lance Bottoms, to cancel her order requiring them.
“Kemp ought to listen to Black women and men, and in this particular instance the Black woman Covid-19 victim who happens to be the mayor of Atlanta,” wrote Emory University law professor Dorothy Brown. “While we all face risks from Covid-19, the risk Black Americans face is even higher.”
In what Peter Bergen called an “unheard of” move, Trump’s trade adviser, Peter Navarro, wrote an op-ed attacking the administration’s own expert that was published in USA Today and contained a number of misleading claims, as the newspaper’s editorial page editor later said. “The attacks on Fauci by Navarro are symptomatic of a deep problem in the Trump administration that begins with Trump himself, which is to prioritize wishful thinking over science,” Bergen wrote.
“Instead of providing any element of national leadership to combat the coronavirus, the Trump White House is employing the oldest political trick in the book, which is to shoot the messenger who brings unwelcome news, in this case a 79-year-old doctor who 67% of the public trust to give them accurate information about the virus as opposed to only 26% for Trump, according to a New York Times/Siena College poll last month.”
Michael D’Antonio called attention to “the difference between Fauci and Trump: One man, a dedicated public servant, offered his best analysis and, when new data emerged, corrected himself without hesitation so that lives might be saved. The other dug in to a don’t-worry-about it position and has refused to budge as the passing months have led the US to become the leading global hotspot.”
Ivanka Trump’s Tuesday
On the same day as Navarro’s op-ed, Trump’s daughter and adviser, Ivanka Trump, made news twice. Jen Psaki wrote that she launched a “tone-deaf” campaign calling on “the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs because of Covid-19 to ‘find something new.’”
“Ivanka Trump has never taken out student loans, never subsisted on ramen noodles and scrambled eggs to make ends meet, never struggled to find a job, never received an unemployment check – never. And her call to struggling Americans to think outside the box, explore switching industries or reconsider the role of higher education in employment, reflects her complete disconnect from the reality facing so many right now,” Psaki wrote. That evening, Ivanka tweeted a photo of herself holding up a can of Goya black beans, which Psaki said, “further cemented Ivanka Trump’s place in history as simply a different version of her dad.”
Julián Castro, the former Democratic presidential candidate, recalled childhood memories of “walking into the kitchen to the smell of my grandmother’s arroz con pollo with a side of frijoles. There were almost always empty cans of Goya beans on the counter.”
Writing in CNN Business’ Perspectives section, he noted that Goya’s CEO Robert Unanue is within his rights to praise Trump. “But just as Unanue is free to heap praise on a president with a history of attacking Latinos, consumers who reject Trump’s bigotry are free to leave Goya’s products on the shelf and choose one of its competitors instead.”
Masks for all
Since wearing masks is proven to protect against the spread of the coronavirus, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Andy Slavitt argued there’s an obvious way to promote their use: the government should send every American three reusable masks.”The cost is a very modest investment compared to the number of lives saved and the positive impact on the economy,” they wrote.
Larry Hogan, the Republican governor of Maryland, painted a damning portrait of the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus in a piece for the Washington Post. “I’d watched as the president downplayed the outbreak’s severity and as the White House failed to issue public warnings, draw up a 50-state strategy, or dispatch medical gear or lifesaving ventilators from the national stockpile to American hospitals,” he wrote. “Eventually, it was clear that waiting around for the president to run the nation’s response was hopeless; if we delayed any longer, we’d be condemning more of our citizens to suffering and death. So every governor went their own way, which is how the United States ended up with such a patchwork response.”
Experts warned against two of the steps the Trump administration is now taking on the coronavirus. Dr. Kent Sepkowitz said the decision to shift the collection of data about hospital use from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the Department of Health and Human Services is a big mistake: “This sudden change – which anonymous officials told The New York Times came as a shock to the CDC – has raised concerns from many that the centralization in Washington, DC, might allow deliberate misrepresentation of the Covid-19 data for political purposes.”
Dr. Keiji Fukuda, former assistant director-general for health security at the World Health Organization, argued against the Trump plan to withdraw from WHO. “It is the public health equivalent of shooting your allies during battle,” he wrote. “In the real world, no country acting on its own can handle today’s major emerging infectious disease events. They are too difficult, the global context is too complex and the infections are able to cross borders too easily.”
When he’s not doing his day job as a biologist, Erin Bromage enjoys coaching youth soccer. “I love helping my players develop their skills and watching the joy they get from playing,” he wrote. “After losing the entire spring season to the pandemic, I was thrilled when we were given the go ahead by the state to resume training our teams again.” So he was bummed when authorities decided this month that it wasn’t yet safe to begin playing the game.
Still, he understands that a full return to youth sports risks spreading transmission of the disease in the community, and that could force schools to stay closed this fall. “No matter the precautions we put in place inside a classroom,” Bromage wrote, “we cannot open schools if there is significant community transmission. Period.”
For more on Covid-19:
William Haseltine: We’re wasting time talking about herd immunity
Errol Louis: Andrew Cuomo’s nutty and smug Covid poster
Daniella Levine Cava: Miami leaders’ disastrous Covid response and how to fix it
Marjorie B. Tiven: How to make online schooling work
Lincoln Mitchell: Reckoning with the Trump effect on school reopening
The freeing of Roger Stone
When the US Supreme Court rejected this month President Trump’s claim of immunity against having his tax returns examined by a prosecutor in New York State, it was a vindication of the Constitution’s checks on presidential power, wrote Joshua A. Geltzer and Jennifer Taub.
But then Trump almost immediately commuted the sentence of his friend Roger Stone, who had been convicted of obstructing an investigation that could have endangered Trump himself. Stone said that Trump “knows I was under enormous pressure to turn on him. It would have eased my situation considerably. But I didn’t.”
To Geltzer and Taub, that’s “an admission of an implicit quid-pro-quo bribery: an agreement to provide or receive something of value in exchange for an official act – here, Stone’s silence in exchange for Trump’s reprieve.”
In their view, “The commutation is an outrageous step – but, astonishingly, outrage among senators was far from universal. We are a long way from the constitutional framers’ sense of what presidential overreach looks like and how senators would respond.”
The Stone case doesn’t have to end here, wrote two New York lawyers, Gerald B. Lefcourt and Robert C. Gottlieb; Stone could be charged under New York State law, and Trump’s commutation of his sentence wouldn’t apply if he were convicted. “US presidents have broad powers to pardon and commute sentences. However, here we have federal law enforcement neutralized by a president’s commutation rewarding the cover-up to protect Trump. A state prosecution would put on trial a man we know is guilty.”
“Far outweighing any legal risk of bringing Stone to justice in New York is the national benefit: Standing up for the rule of law, showing that it survives in the offices of state prosecutors, if not in the White House.”
Meanwhile, brace yourself, wrote Elie Honig. “Now, there’s only one remaining line that Trump has not yet crossed…it might well happen soon: the first-ever presidential self-pardon.
“Mechanically, Trump would have to issue such a pardon while he still holds office. And the pardon would need to give him coverage for anything he has done in the past. It would be as if Richard Nixon – rather than resigning and receiving a blanket pardon from his successor, Gerald Ford – simply tried to pardon himself on his way out of the White House. Trump has ample incentive to preemptively save his own hide with a pardon (or, at least, to try).”
RIP John Lewis
America is mourning civil rights champion John Lewis this weekend. As a 25-year-old protester in 1965, Lewis marched on a now famous bridge in Selma, Alabama, named after a Confederate general, Jess McIntosh wrote. He was beaten by police and suffered a broken skull.
“The bridge should have been renamed long ago. Edmund Pettus was a domestic terrorist who fought in a traitor army for the right to claim ownership of human beings. Children aren’t brought to Edmund Pettus Bridge to learn about him; families now make the pilgrimage to teach the next generation that men like him can and did lose. That while these men wielded hideous and violent power, there were very brave people who linked arms and faced that violence together in their demand for justice. That heroes like Lewis put on his best $5 suit, along with his trench coat and backpack and fought for Black voting rights.” The bridge should be renamed for Lewis, she said. And “to honor the legacy of Lewis’ life and go beyond symbolic change, we must restore the Voting Rights Act.”
President Trump demoted his campaign manager Brad Parscale this week, a sure sign that he is worried about polls showing him running far behind his Democratic challenger Joe Biden. The struggling economy and the loss of confidence in Trump’s ability to lead the fight against Covid-19 are weakening Trump’s standing in the key swing states and even in some traditionally red ones.
“Maybe Trump has what political ad makers call the “Dog Food Problem,” wrote Democratic strategist Paul Begala. “The nutritionists concoct the healthiest dog food; the graphic designers create a cool logo; the engineers make an easy-opening can; the ad makers create Spielbergian images of golden retrievers bounding through amber waves of grain. But there’s one problem: the dog won’t eat it. Maybe Trump’s problem is not Parscale; maybe it’s him.”
Juliana Silva and Bill McGowan observed that, “back in 2016, a Donald Trump rally speech was like a triple espresso for his adoring audiences. Not anymore. If his listless campaign event in Tulsa last month is any indication, the caffeine has been replaced by Ambien.
“Trump at the lectern is as bombastic, crass, hostile, boastful and narcissistic as ever. But now the red-hat brigades are sparser and people have been spotted yawning and checking their watches during the tirades.”
Since Trump announced his reelection campaign in June of last year, author Elizabeth Bass has received more than 712 fundraising emails from the President, members of his family, supportive Republicans and Parscale, when he was campaign manager. She’s not a fan of Trump but sent in her email address out of curiosity.
“Along with the messages about how special I am, come emails steeped in shame and disappointment,” she wrote. “‘Did I make a mistake in trusting you?’ they ask. ‘Where have you been?’ son Eric Trump asks. ‘Each day my father sees an updated donor list and EACH DAY he notices that you STILL haven’t contributed…he asked me to reach out and offer you ONE MORE CHANCE to get on the right side of history with us.’
It is as though I have been inducted into a dysfunctional family, where folks love me but are so very, very disappointed in me. Can’t I just be nice this one time, for Dad’s sake? Can’t I write or call or send money?”
One thing went right for Trump politically this week. The attorney general he reviled and fired, Jeff Sessions, lost his bid for a chance to recapture a US Senate seat in the Alabama primary. “Republican politicians have been frequently asked if and when they will speak out against Trump’s behavior,” wrote Doug Heye. “That many of them, particularly those from red states, haven’t yet says much about the current state of the Republican Party. The ballad of Jeff Sessions could explain their reluctance.”
If Biden is to beat Trump resoundingly, wrote former Sen. Al Franken, he has to put forth a program people can rally around. “We must restore Americans’ confidence in our ability to solve problems and make progress. Most Americans want to build on Obamacare, not abandon it. We want our government agencies run by competent professionals, not crooked cronies.”
Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is a supporter of voting by mail this November, but that won’t go far enough to ensure a fair election, he wrote. “Moving to a vote-by-mail in states that have never held mail-only elections before risks leaving out key eligible voting groups, including disabled voters, voters who do not speak English or eligible voters who lack a street address, like we see with many voters who live on Native American reservations,” Reid noted. “Therefore, even though voting by mail is safe and secure, to protect access for all eligible voters, in-person voting is also necessary to offer access to the polls for every voter in our nation.”
Stacey Abrams and America Ferrera: How to make sure your life counts
John D. Sutter: This camera could let us see climate change in a new way
Ray Halbritter: The terrible R-word that football needed to lose
Jill Filipovic: What’s behind Tucker Carlson’s mask
Irving Washington: Taking ‘Black Lives Matter’ from slogan to reality
Julian Zelizer: What a Trump loss could look like
World population surprise
Forget the forecasts that the world’s population will top 10 billion by the end of the century, a new study reported this week.
The projection, published in the Lancet, said population, now at 7.8 billion, will hit a peak of 9.7 billion by 2064 and then start dropping, by almost a billion people, to 8.8 billion in 2100, wrote Frida Ghitis. “The downward trend, a revolution triggered by the education of women, who choose to have fewer babies, will affect almost every country – 183 out of 195 – on Earth.”
“On the positive side, the strain on resources will diminish. Perhaps Earth can at last catch a break. But picture an economy where the number of retired people grows far faster than the number of productive workers, who have to keep the economy moving and pay enough taxes to support growing health care and retirement costs. Who’s going to do all the work? Who’s going to pay all the taxes? Who’s going to keep countries competitive, strong enough to defend from potentially aggressive rivals?”
The answer? “The study optimistically predicts that the collapse in fertility rates in the US will be offset by – that’s right – immigration,” she said. “That infusion of new muscle, new talent and new stamina, has the power not only to preserve America’s preeminent position on the global stage, but also to reverse the current trend that has China’s economy surpassing the US by 2035…
“The present may be blazing with the demagogues’ sturm und drang about keeping immigrants out. But the future belongs to the country that welcomes them.”