On November 7, 1962, Richard Nixon met with reporters to concede that he had lost his bid for governor of California – and to grumble about the way the press covered his campaign. It was two years since he had lost his race for president against John F. Kennedy, and few thought Nixon would ever run for office again.
“Just think how much you’re going to be missing,” the defeated Republican said. “You don’t have Nixon to kick around anymore, because gentlemen, this is my last press conference, and it will be one in which I have welcomed the opportunity to test wits with you.” It turned out to be far from the last press conference for Nixon, who won the presidency in 1968 and in 1972. But its petulant tone made political history.
When Larry Elder conceded defeat this week in his bid to unseat California Governor Gavin Newsom, he sounded a different note than Nixon: “Let’s be gracious in defeat,” the talk show host said. Still, at least he and Nixon admitted they were beaten – something former President Donald Trump could never bring himself to do after the 2020 election.
Elder’s post-election concession clashed with his earlier embrace of Trump’s “big lie” strategy – the notion of massive election fraud which the former president has been promoting ever since he lost to Joe Biden. “The conservative ecosystem that backed Elder’s run didn’t seem to be simply looking for him to win, even though the uniquely arcane mechanisms of California’s recall politics made it briefly seem as if that might be possible,” wrote Jeff Yang.
“The true goal of Elder’s Republican backers appeared to be for him to at least lose by a margin that would allow them to contest the results in order to claim that Democrats had once again engaged in magical manipulation of ballots, voting machines or the brains of voters themselves, thus making the election seem null and void and expanding already widespread doubt and paranoia about the nature of our democracy.”
That corrosive approach to politics seems certain to survive Elder’s crushing defeat. “Republicans are no longer running against Democrats. They’re running against democracy,” Yang concluded.
Trump’s refusal to concede set the stage for the events of January 6 – a fact that apparently wasn’t lost on former President George W. Bush, who last weekend drew a parallel between the Capitol rioters and the 9/11 attackers. “The 9/11 terrorists and the January 6 attackers do share the same ‘foul spirit,’” Dean Obeidallah wrote, quoting Bush.
But Obeidallah added that “one glaring difference is that the al Qaeda attackers were incited and directed by Osama bin Laden, while the January 6 attackers were incited by an American president, Donald Trump. It was Trump who for the two months after the election radicalized people with a tsunami of lies, claiming that the election was ‘stolen.’”
California’s election results, with Newsom decisively quashing the recall, may have national implications for the 2022 midterms, wrote Lincoln Mitchell. “The recall was a referendum on Newsom, but indirectly on Biden and the Democrats as well. The numbers show that it wasn’t close and that Californians, including the White women whose support is so crucial to the GOP’s future in the state, were not buying whatever the GOP and Elder were selling,” Mitchell noted.
“Who knows what would happen if the GOP were at all interested in trying out good candidates with views that appeal to a wider range of voters, instead of merely identifying the Trumpiest candidate on the menu and letting them run riot,” asked SE Cupp. “But so far, in most cases, the GOP is not interested. It is, in fact, systematically purging those very people from its party. When it comes to 2024, the GOP doesn’t appear to be considering running anyone other than Trump. I wonder how long – and how many failed elections – it will take Republicans to realize that they are shrinking the voter base this way.”
It may please the former president, Frida Ghitis observed, but it’s bad news for America: “The example set by Trump – disparaging, assaulting and undercutting a country’s democracy – has now become the template for political players with authoritarian leanings around the globe.”
Gen. Mark Milley’s calls
The continuing cascade of books on the Trump presidency brought forth new revelations this week – some gobsmacking, and others in the “shocking but not surprising” category. As Peter Bergen noted, “in the last few months of Donald Trump’s presidency, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley made two phone calls to reassure his Chinese counterpart that the US was stable and not considering a military strike against China, according to a new book by reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.” Republicans such as Sen. Marco Rubio were quick to accuse Milley of treason, but that charge is very wide of the mark, Bergen said.
“What Milley did was put his country above his commander-in-chief. Given the irrational rage that Trump was exhibiting after his election loss, Milley made the right call to reassure the Chinese about the stability of the US national security apparatus. But Milley’s actions could set a dangerous precedent and we should carefully consider how high-ranking military officers in future administrations might insert themselves into the chain of command under a different president.”
In the Washington Post, Josh Rogin wrote: “The legitimate criticism of Milley is not that he betrayed the country to China. Milley’s failing was that he believed, according to this and many other recent books, that it was his job to save the Republic from the president. Milley’s offense was not treason, it was hubris.”
Milley was just doing his job, wrote retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling. “Given that the former president had already made worrisome comments about summarily pulling US forces out of various areas around the world, and given media reports of Trump’s earlier threats to attack other nations, Milley found it necessary to communicate directly with his counterparts overseas, with whom he had a professional relationship.”
“He was right to do so, because he was reacting to the realities on the ground. Straight talk with our allies and partners, lowering the temperature when tensions are rising, is critical to avoiding misunderstandings and perhaps deadly unintentional consequences.”
Melania Trump and Stephanie Grisham’s book
Politico reported that in Stephanie Grisham’s forthcoming book, the former White House press secretary contends that Melania Trump ducked opportunities to condemn the January 6 violence and to invite Jill Biden for the traditional tea provided by outgoing first ladies. (Melania Trump issued a statement condemning the book as untruthful and a “betrayal.”)
“Every word of Grisham’s forthcoming tell-all might be true,” wrote Jill Filipovic. “It might accurately paint Donald, Melania and many of their family members and staffers as among the most deplorable and morally hideous people to ever occupy the White House.
“But don’t forget: Grisham isn’t a light illuminating the Trump administration’s darkness. She is one of them, who pushed Trump’s vile messages and left America cracked and perhaps forever wrecked. …We can be glad the truth about Melania is being told. But we do not have to rehabilitate the reputation of someone who, like the Trumps, has never apologized, never tried to make amends and never been held fully accountable.”
To boost or not to boost?
The Delta variant may finally have peaked in the US, wrote Dr. Kent Sepkowitz. So is it time to declare victory over Covid-19?
“Of course not,” he argued. “The Covid-19 pandemic isn’t going to miraculously disappear…”
“As with the previous claims of victory based on a few weeks of improvement, celebrating any end of the pandemic surely is a mistake. We have new variants to worry about, immunity possibly waning in the elderly, the cruel recalcitrance of those refusing vaccination, the uneven global distribution of the vaccine and roughly 50 million children in the US who aren’t even eligible for vaccine yet.”
Scientists are debating the case for vaccine booster shots. In the Lancet, leading experts, including two scientists who are stepping down from the FDA’s Office of Vaccines Research and Review, said the “current evidence does not … appear to show a need for boosting in the general population, in which efficacy against severe disease remains high.” Other scientists, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, disagreed. On Friday, scientists advising the FDA recommended boosters of the Pfizer vaccine only for those 65 and older or people at high risk of developing a severe case of Covid-19.
Writing for CNN Opinion, William Haseltine, observed that, “for those in the US who received mRNA vaccines, a third dose is the minimum we should pursue for Covid-19 protection, and people should prepare themselves for the possibility that they will need additional doses or annual shots in the months and years to come. For those who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, there is not enough data so far to say with certainty whether a booster is advisable.”
It’s not that the vaccines don’t work well, Haseltine noted, but because “coronaviruses, like influenza viruses, are masters at evading the immune system … SARS-CoV-2 can turn off our body’s ability to mount an innate immune response which means, for protection, vaccine-induced neutralizing antibodies must be significant and powerful.”
The school district that serves more than 600,000 students in Los Angeles is requiring vaccinations for in-person classes, as Dr. Smita Malhotra noted. As the district’s medical director, she wrote, “This bold decision by our school board is sound and backed by science. It is one that I hope will spark a trend across the country and the world that emboldens social responsibility. Our school board and superintendent understand that vaccinations will bring back in-person learning in the safest way possible, and more importantly, that it’s the right thing to do for communities and children, especially for those children, like my own, who are too young to receive a vaccine.”
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‘Tax the rich’
Covid-19 canceled the Met Gala last year, but it roared back this week as fancifully-dressed celebrities once again dazzled social media at the benefit for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez “made her Met Gala debut in a long white off-shoulder mermaid gown, with ‘Tax The Rich’ scribed across the back in massive, flag-red letters,” wrote Holly Thomas. “It was explicit, as close as you could come to having a placard at the gala without literally bringing one.” It was also controversial. “Donald Trump Jr. led the charge, and Newsmax’s Benny Johnson and actor and comedian Michael Rapaport joined in to complain about the apparent hypocrisy of a politician who’s targeting the rich showing up to a $35,000-per-ticket event almost exclusively populated by the extremely wealthy and/or famous. They appeared unaware of the fact that, as Ocasio-Cortez pointed out on Instagram, New York City’s elected officials are regularly invited to the Met Gala for free,” Thomas noted.
“The general social media backlash also sidestepped the peculiarity in calling a politician who consistently calls for higher taxes on the rich, and is part of the progressive movement pushing a wealth equity agenda as the Democrats’ budget bill moves through Congress, a ‘hypocrite.’ By showing up at the Met showcasing that phrase, she did exactly what she always does when she’s in the spotlight and as a member of the House, hardly new to doing so surrounded by the uber-privileged.”
President Joe Biden is fully in accord with the “tax the rich” idea, but when his allies in the House unveiled their tax proposal this week, it signaled a partial retreat from the President’s agenda.
“Biden’s $400,000 cutoff (which rules out tax hikes on more than 95 percent of Americans) had limited funding options,” wrote Catherine Rampell in the Washington Post. “But Democrats have been reluctant to levy some of the tax hikes that Biden did ask for.”
“Yes, Democrats plan to raise top rates on personal and corporate income taxes. That’s not nothing. But it’s not nearly sufficient to pay for the generous welfare state Democrats want to build. Paying for that would ultimately require levying higher taxes on the middle class, too, as other countries with more expansive safety nets do.”
Biden’s declining approval ratings are alarming people on the left and cheering the right.
“For most people Joe Biden was not elected last November to get us out of Afghanistan,” wrote Arick Wierson and Bradley Honan. “His election was not a blank check to oversee a dramatic expansion of the federal government. … Biden’s mandate was to ensure that Trump would never, ever, occupy the White House again – and ideally leave the political stage for good.” But, they added, “through a series of self-inflicted wounds, miscalculations and gaffes, the Biden administration is ‘priming the pump’ for a Trump presidency, part deux.”
Scott Jennings observed that “when you are the president, you have two primary ways to move people to your point of view: inspiration or coercion. It was said that Biden would employ the former, but he has resorted to the latter via a series of executive mandates and scolding speeches as he seeks higher vaccination rates. Gone is the soaring rhetoric of Biden’s campaign, replaced with the kind of bile and disdain many Americans hated about ‘the former guy,’ as Biden would say.”
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We’ve seen the future of tennis
The women’s US Open tennis tournament featured an all-teenager final last weekend. As Amy Bass noted, it was the first such match since 1999 when “17-year-old Serena Williams upset Martina Hingis… for her first Grand Slam title in only her second year on the pro circuit.”
“Neither of these young women saw that match because they hadn’t been born,” wrote Bass, of Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez. “The duo, both born in Canada, defy easy categorization in a sport where both nationality and ethnicity have often proved contentious. Fernandez, who speaks English, French and Spanish, is coached by her father, Jorge, a former professional soccer player from Ecuador. Her mother, born in Canada to Filipino parents, moved to California for work in order to better financially support the family. Raducanu, whose father is Romanian and mother is Chinese, moved to London when she was two.”
Raducanu, who had been ranked 150th in the world, stunned fans with her rise to the title. Her victory is worth celebrating, wrote Bass.
“It’s no secret that tennis can eat its young, perhaps especially on the women’s side. But for now, amidst all of the joy, all of the international excitement for these two 21st century teens, let’s take a page out of the playbook they just wrote as athletes who embraced, rather than backed away, from their moment. They ran with it, and they let us have the privilege of watching.”