Opinion | Injections of Bleach? Trump’s Coronavirus Response Is Breaking Down – By Frank Bruni – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Ben Wiseman

” “And he’s going to get re-elected.”

Not a day goes by without several friends — Republicans as well as Democrats — saying that to me. It’s the blunt coda to a bloated recitation of Donald Trump’s failures during this pandemic. It’s a whimper of surrender following a scream of disbelief.

Tens of thousands of Americans die; what does the president do? Spreads bad information. Seeds false hope. Reinvents history, reimagines science, prattles on about his supposed heroism, bellyaches about his self-proclaimed martyrdom and savages anyone who questions his infallibility. In lieu of leadership, grandstanding. In place of empathy, a snit. And he’s going to get re-elected.

With that refrain we perform a spiritual prophylaxis. We prepare for despair.

But somewhere along the way, we started to confuse a coping mechanism with reasoned analysis. We began to treat a verbal tic as inevitable truth.

It isn’t. While Trump may indeed be careening toward four more years, it’s at least as possible that he’s self-destructing before our eyes.”

 A Candidate in Isolation: Inside Joe Biden’s Cloistered Campaign – The New York Times

“Joseph R. Biden Jr. usually rises before 8 a.m. at his home in Wilmington, Del., and starts his day with a workout in an upstairs gym that contains a Peloton bike, weights and a treadmill. He often enjoys a protein shake for breakfast and puts on a suit or blazer much of the time. In the evenings, he and his wife, Jill, sit down together for dinner, a ritual that was absent for much of the last frenzied year on the campaign trail.

In the intervening hours, Mr. Biden attempts to win the presidency without leaving his house.

With the coronavirus outbreak freezing the country’s public life, Mr. Biden has been forced to adapt to a cloistered mode of campaigning never before seen in modern American politics. He was unable to embark on a victory tour after the Democratic primaries or hold unity rallies with onetime rivals like Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Instead, the former vice president is in a distinctive kind of lockdown, walled off from voters, separated from his top strategists and yet leading in the polls.

For a famous backslapper like Mr. Biden, this open-ended period of captivity has tested both his patience and his political imagination. He has lamented being deprived of human contact, and he has expressed exasperation with media coverage critiquing his limited visibility compared with President Trump’s daily performances in the White House briefing room. He does not make a habit of watching the president’s briefings in full; he is said to be fixated mainly on the eventual challenge — if he wins — of governing amid a pandemic.

Interviews with dozens of people in touch with the presumptive Democratic nominee and his advisers revealed a newly detailed picture of Mr. Biden’s life in seclusion, one spent in long-distance consultation with a wide array of coalition leaders helping him map out the fall campaign and a potential administration.”

Opinion | How Joe Biden Should Pick His Running Mate – by Richard Moe – The New York Times

“Joe Biden intends to name a woman as his running mate. Selecting that woman, however, is a much harder decision, almost certainly the most consequential he will make this year, revealing much about his values and his judgment.

We are already hearing the chatter: Should he choose a woman who can help him get elected because she represents a key swing state, a key ethnic group or an important region? Or should he select a woman who is steeped not only in politics but also in public policy with a proven record in public service who can significantly bolster Mr. Biden’s ability to govern?

I believe Mr. Biden should focus heavily on governance, because it stems from his own experience as senator and vice president, and because rarely has a running mate had more than a marginal effect on the election outcome. And he must remember that he could well be selecting a future president. Some nominees, alas, apparently didn’t remember, giving us Dan Quayle in 1988 and Sarah Palin in 2008, whom many saw as unqualified.

Mr. Biden should assume for these purposes that he will be elected and will immediately face the formidable fallout of the continuing coronavirus pandemic — the 1918 pandemic lasted until mid-1919 — and an unrecognizable economy with probable double-digit unemployment. Both crises will require new thinking, strong leadership, empathy and compassion.”

Opinion | Facing the Coronavirus, Republicans Aren’t So Pro-Life After All – By Timothy Egan – The New York Times

By 

Contributing Opinion Writer

Credit…Sergio Flores/Getty Images

I look at the numbers every day, sometimes every hour, sometimes before dawn. China is not to be trusted. Nor is Russia. I’m always curious about the latest death toll out of Sweden, a country with a riskier, more self-regulated approach to keeping people apart. And cheers for long-suffering bell’Italia, finally seeing a drop in active Covid-19 cases.

All of us want the same thing — a road map to the way out. The scientific consensus is clear and not that complicated: We need a significant upgrade of testing, contact tracing to track the infected, nuanced and dutiful social isolation, all to buy time until a vaccine is developed.

But the political way out reveals a stark divide, and some true madness. For Republicans, that pro-life slogan of theirs is just another term for nothing left to lose. They are now the party of death.

When Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick of Texas doubled down this week on prior remarks elevating commerce above life — there are “more important things than living,” he said on Fox News — he was speaking for a significant slice of his party. People are disposable. So is income. But one is more important.

Opinion | Who Is Driving Inequality? You Are – by David Brooks – The New York Times

“Who is driving inequality in America? You are. I am. We are.

Did you read to your kids before bed when they were young? If you did, you gave them an advantage over kids whose parents were working the evening shift at 7-Eleven. Did you spend extra on tutoring or music lessons? Since 1996, affluent families have spent almost 300 percent more educating their young while everybody else’s spending has been mostly flat.

Did you marry before having kids and raise your kids in a two-parent home? The children of the well educated are now much more likely to grow up in stable families, and those differences in family structure explain 32 percent of the growth of family income inequality since 1979.

If you did these things, you did nothing wrong. You invested in your children’s flourishing as any decent parent would.

But here’s the situation: The information economy rains money on highly trained professionals — doctors, lawyers, corporate managers, engineers and so on.

Daniel Markovits, author of “The Meritocracy Trap,” estimates there are about one million of these workers in America today. They work really hard, are really productive and earn a lot more. In the mid-1960s, profits per partner at elite law firms were less than five times a secretary’s salary. Now, Markovits notes, they are over 40 times.”

Opinion | McConnell to Every State: Drop Dead – by Paul Krugman – The New York Times

“. . .  On Wednesday, McConnell, the Senate majority leader, declared that he is opposed to any further federal aid to beleaguered state and local governments, and suggested that states declare bankruptcy instead. Lest anyone accuse McConnell of being even slightly nonpartisan, his office distributed two memos referring to proposals for state aid as “blue state bailouts.”

A number of governors have already denounced McConnell’s position as stupid, which it is. But it’s also vile and hypocritical.

When I say that we have the resources to avoid severe financial hardship, I’m referring to the federal government, which can borrow vast sums very cheaply. In fact, the interest rate on inflation-protected bonds, which measure real borrowing costs, is minus 0.43 percent: Investors are basically paying the feds to hold their money.

So Washington can and should run big budget deficits in this time of need. State and local governments, however, can’t, because almost all of them are required by law to run balanced budgets. Yet these governments, which are on the front line of dealing with the pandemic, are facing a combination of collapsing revenue and soaring expenses.

The obvious answer is federal aid. But McConnell wants states and cities to declare bankruptcy instead.

This is, as I said, stupid on multiple levels. For one thing, states don’t even have the legal right to declare bankruptcy; even if they somehow managed all the same to default on their relatively small debts, it would do little to alleviate their financial distress — although it could cause a national financial crisis.”

Opinion | The Money Machine That Can Save Cities – By Claudia Sahm – The New York Times

By 

Ms. Sahm was an economist at the Federal Reserve from 2008 to 2019.

Credit…Eva Hambach/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“State and local budgets across the United States are beginning to buckle under the economic strain caused by Covid-19. Because the economy is essentially in a medically induced coma, sales tax revenue and revenue from other business taxes have dried up. That means the funds to take care of communities — to pay teachers, to support Medicaid, to hire emergency medical workers, to maintain roads, to build low-income housing — are also drying up.

Because 40 out of 50 states have laws mandating that both the state’s overall budget and the budgets of nearly all cities be balanced, state governments are already laying off employees and cutting services. More than 14,000 workers in state governments lost their jobs in March. Terrifyingly, those losses, counted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only stretch through mid-March, before the shutdowns were nationwide.

Local officials were blindsided by this crisis and the costs it required to rapidly ramp up medical care and the social safety net. But so far Congress has allocated only $150 billion for state and local governments from the trillions of dollars its approved for pandemic relief. It’s too little and often it’s arriving too late.

The Federal Reserve knows this. And so, the central bank, with consent from Congress and in partnership with the Treasury, has joined the effort to shore up local and state finances by taking the unprecedented move of “backstopping the municipal bond market.” “

 

Opinion | A Precedent Overturned Reveals a Supreme Court in Crisis – By Linda Greenhouse – The New York Times

By 

Contributing Opinion Writer

Credit…Christopher (TX) Lee for The New York Times

“The country wasn’t exactly holding its breath for the Supreme Court’s decision this week that the Constitution requires juror unanimity for a felony conviction in state court. The case promised little change. Unanimity has long been understood as constitutionally required in federal court as a matter of the Sixth Amendment right to trial by jury.

The only outlier among the states was Oregon. Louisiana, where the case originated in an appeal brought by a man convicted of murder in 2016 by a 10-to-2 vote, changed its rule two years later to require unanimity going forward. Six Supreme Court justices agreed this week that contrary to the outcome of a 1972 case, there is not one rule for the federal courts and another for the states: Conviction only by a unanimous jury verdict is now the rule for both.

That sounds almost too straightforward to be very interesting. Even people with more than a passing interest in the Supreme Court may well have thought, “Well, then that’s that,” before moving on to other cases, other concerns.

That would have been a mistake. This decision, Ramos v. Louisiana, is in fact one of the most fascinating Supreme Court products I’ve seen in a long time, and one of the most revealing. Below the surface of its 6-to-3 outcome lies a maelstrom of clashing agendas having little to do with the question ostensibly at hand and a great deal to do with the court’s future. Peek under the hood and see a Supreme Court in crisis.”

Opinion | Trump’s Immigration Ban Is Straight Out of His Old Populist Playbook – By Thomas B. Edsall – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Edsall contributes a weekly column from Washington, D.C. on politics, demographics and inequality.

Credit…Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times

“President Trump has chosen his pandemic re-election strategy. He is set on unifying and reinvigorating the groups that were crucial to his 2016 victory: racially resentful whitesevangelical Christiansgun activistsanti-vaxxers and wealthy conservatives.

Tying his re-election to the growing anti-lockdown movement, Trump is encouraging a resurgence of what Ed Kilgore, in New York magazine, calls “the angry anti-government strain of right-wing political activity that broke out in the tea-party movement” — a movement now focused on ending the virus-imposed restrictions on many aspects of American life.

Jeremy Menchik, a political scientist at Boston University, argues in a lengthy Twitter thread that

these protests have something for everyone: small-business, concerns for the working class, anti-elitism for resentful rural whites, fetishism of guns for NRA, dislike of government for traditional conservatives. It’s a crosscutting issue even amid a pandemic.

Menchik makes the point that anti-quarantine protests

will distract the electorate. If the election is a fight between Trump vs governors who refuse to open their economies, Trump doesn’t have to defend his record on Covid-19. He’s an advocate for liberty!

Studies of the 2009-10 Tea Party movement, Menchik writes, suggest that “continued protests will boost conservative turnout in Nov 2020.” The protests

will help frame the 2020 election as a choice between the pro-open economy Trump versus the Washington insider #BeijingBiden who is complicit in China’s efforts to hurt working class Americans.

Crucially, Menchik argues,

Continued protests will help Trump rebuild his coalition of 2016. Scholars of digital social movements emphasize a logic of connective action not collective action; where personalized content sharing across media networks enables coalition building.

Casting the coronavirus epidemic as a wedge issue, Trump is playing both ends against the middle, in an attempt to veil his own inconsistencies.    . . . “

David Lindsay:

Here are the top comments after this article, which, like the article,  are also amazing.

David Potenziani
Durham, NC
Times Pick

Mr. Edsall ably documents the fact that Trump is clever but not smart. He’s clever by driving wedges between groups and connecting his disparate supporters in the hope to flip a few states. If he were smart, he would have stepped up with leadership showing (feigned) sincerity, calm, and empathy for the plight of the American people, marshaling the resources to get testing on its feet, and driving forward for effective treatment and the promised land of a vaccine. He would have won. Maybe bigly. But all is not good in the land of Trump. The latest polls show erosion of support by seniors. GOP governors are breaking ranks with the leaders of their party. Most Americans fear the virus and want protection. Trump’s approach is purely political when a vastly different solution is needed. The lack of leadership will leave all areas in the lurch. Because COVID-19 respects no one, the epidemic will ravage every farm, hamlet, village, and town—everywhere. This was a challenge of leadership. Trump has failed. Tragically.

35 Replies907 Recommended

John commented April 22

John
Cleveland Heights
Times Pick

In addition to the groups described as comprising his coalition, Trump pulled together a number of single-issue voters who were willing to hold their noses regarding their general dislike for the man: anti-choice, anti-tax, anti-immigrant, anti-regulation, anti-Palestinian, etc. I hope that this pandemic has revealed that character matters. This is a guy who insisted on placing his name on stimulus checks as a decoration, a guy who lies shamelessly and gives himself a 10/10 for his performance on every issue, the kind of person who, if a character on a TV show, everyone would laugh at and find completely despicable and to be dismissed. I hope that these single-issue voters will come to their senses and see that Trump is not presidential material. Biden, despite his flaws, has a basic sense of right and wrong that one could appeal to. It would matter to Biden whether a given course of action was right or not. Trump completely lacks that. He does not even understand that. His desire to win at all costs and his lack of character are now completely laid bare. He has got to go.

24 Replies574 Recommended

alan haigh commented April 22

alan haigh
carmel, ny

Thank you pundits. Without your guidance Trump’s tactics would have seemed like love of America and the desire to lift the lot of working Americans to me. Every single Trump briefing on the pandemic has revealed such utter incompetence- such a complete inability to marshal a simple paragraph of information that if the voters bring him within a mile of another term, I suppose we will have the government we deserve. Cuomo’s detailed briefings provide a perfect contrast, revealing a thorough grasp of the data and what the consequences are for regular people. Night and day. Grammar school and graduate school. How can Trump be a champion for anyone who successfully graduated high school?

7 Replies495 Recommended

Joel Sanders commented April 22

Joel Sanders
Montgomery, AL

It’s interesting that the anti-shutdown protestors see themselves as, once again, giving the middle finger to the coastal elites but are actually being duped by conservative elites.

5 Replies415 Recommended

Tony Pious commented April 22

Tony Pious
Times Pick

Conservative working class whites fail to understand what wealthy conservative whites have always known. Government per se is not the enemy; government is merely the tool of the real enemy — Big Capital. That the Kochs and Mercers and DeVos’s of the world can fund astroturf campaigns and hoodwink blue colar whites into acting against their own interests is bald evidence of the primacy of money in American politics. What credulous working class whites fail to understand is that COVID-19 is a far greater threat to them than to the shadowy squintillionaires who bankroll their protests. So while they are coughing and hacking their way to an early grave the Kochs and Mercers and DeVos’s of the world are secure in the knowledge that their squintillions will isolate them from the havoc they wreak.

20 Replies409 Recommended

Stephen Csiszar commented April 22

Stephen Csiszar
Carthage NC

@David Potenziani He cannot even be bothered to pretend to feign sincerity, or anything else he lacks, like everything. He can however, continue endlessly to talk about himself. TV game show host making life-and-death decisions for hundreds of millions. Oh America.

329 Recommended

Mike N commented April 22

Mike N
Rochester

Our country is divided now into two camps but it isn’t even about ideology anymore. It comes down to one thing: those susceptible to the con, and those who aren’t. It’s not about ideology; it’s about gullibility.

24 Replies328 Recommended

Social Distancing for Coronavirus Has a History – By Eric Lipton and Jennifer Steinhauer – The New York Times

“WASHINGTON — Fourteen years ago, two federal government doctors, Richard Hatchett and Carter Mecher, met with a colleague at a burger joint in suburban Washington for a final review of a proposal they knew would be treated like a piñata: telling Americans to stay home from work and school the next time the country was hit by a deadly pandemic.

When they presented their plan not long after, it was met with skepticism and a degree of ridicule by senior officials, who like others in the United States had grown accustomed to relying on the pharmaceutical industry, with its ever-growing array of new treatments, to confront evolving health challenges.

Drs. Hatchett and Mecher were proposing instead that Americans in some places might have to turn back to an approach, self-isolation, first widely employed in the Middle Ages.

How that idea — born out of a request by President George W. Bush to ensure the nation was better prepared for the next contagious disease outbreak — became the heart of the national playbook for responding to a pandemic is one of the untold stories of the coronavirus crisis.:

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment:
Magnificent article. It really felt good to learn this fine story. You see children, as I said before, the Republicans weren’t always bad, creepy, science denying, suck ups to the rich and racists.

 

Joan commented 2 hours ago

Joan
NJ   

I admit, I was never a fan of GWBush. However, as more facts emerge about his healthcare initiatives in both Africa in 2003 AIDS crisis and now in this report, my respect has grown for him. History will probably judge him more kindly based on this information. He has a soul and humanity, which is in stark contrast to DJT. Time to speak up President Bush.

4 Replies 131 Recommended