Opinion | How Did the ‘Best-Prepared Country’ Become a Horror Story? – By Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

“What would America be like today if President Trump had acted decisively in January to tackle the coronavirus, as soon as he was briefed on the danger?

One opportunity for decisive action came Jan. 28, when his national security adviser, Robert C. O’Brien, told Trump that the coronavirus “will be the biggest national security threat you face in your presidency.” Trump absorbed the warning, telling Bob Woodward days later how deadly and contagious the virus could be, according to Woodward’s new book, “Rage.”

Yet the president then misled the public by downplaying the virus, comparing it to the flu and saying that it would “go away.” He resisted masks, sidelined experts, held large rallies, denounced lockdowns and failed to get tests and protective equipment ready — and here we are, with Americans constituting 4 percent of the world’s population and 22 percent of Covid-19 deaths.

There’s plenty of blame to be directed as well at local officials, nursing home managers and ordinary citizens — but Trump set the national agenda.

Suppose Trump in January — or even in February — had warned the public of the dangers, had ensured that accurate tests were widely distributed (Sierra Leone had tests available before the United States) and had built up a robust system of contact tracing (Congo has better contact tracing than the United States).

Suppose he had ramped up production of masks and empowered the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to lead the pandemic response, instead of marginalizing its experts.

Suppose he had tried as relentlessly to battle the virus as he has to build his wall?

If testing and contact tracing had been done right, then we would have known where hot spots were and large-scale lockdowns and layoffs might have been unnecessary.

The United States would still have made mistakes. We focused too much on ventilators and not enough on other things that might have been more useful, like face masks, blood thinners and high-flow nasal cannulas. Because of mask shortages, health messaging about their importance was bungled. Governors and mayors dithered, and nursing homes weren’t adequately protected.

But many of our peer countries did better than we did not because they got everything right but because they got some things right — and then learned from mistakes.

Because of Covid-19, Trump called himself a wartime president, but he didn’t heed his generals and never ordered ammunition. In World War II, a Ford plant was configured to turn out one new B-24 bomber every hour, yet today we display none of that urgency even though Americans are dying from the virus at a faster pace than they fell in World War II.”

In Visiting a Charred California, Trump Confronts a Scientific Reality He Denies – By Michael D. Shear and Coral Davenport – The New York Times

“WASHINGTON — When President Trump flies to California on Monday to assess the state’s raging forest fires, he will come face to face with the grim consequences of a reality he has stubbornly refused to accept: the devastating effects of a warming planet.

To the global scientific community, the acres of scorched earth and ash-filled skies across the American West are the tragic, but predictable, result of accelerating climate change. Nearly two years ago, federal government scientists concluded that greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels could triple the frequency of severe fires across the Western states.

But the president has used his time in the nation’s highest office to aggressively promote the burning of fossil fuels, chiefly by rolling back or weakening every major federal policy intended to combat dangerous emissions. At the same time, Mr. Trump and his senior environmental officials have regularly mocked, denied or minimized the established science of human-caused climate change.

Now, as he battles for a second term in the White House, Mr. Trump has doubled down on his anti-climate agenda as a way of appealing to his core supporters. At a rally in Pennsylvania last month, he blamed California’s failure to “clean your floors” of leaves, threatening to “make them pay for it because they don’t listen to us.

The lethal fires spreading across the West — like the coronavirus that has ravaged the country for months — are a warning for the president that many voters may hold him and his administration accountable for brushing aside scientific experts and failing to effectively mobilize the government to minimize natural disasters that have claimed lives, damaged property and threatened economic prosperity.

“Talk to a firefighter if you think that climate change isn’t real,” Mayor Eric M. Garcetti of Los Angeles, a supporter of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., Mr. Trump’s Democratic opponent, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. “It seems like this administration are the last vestiges of the Flat Earth Society of this generation.”

Mr. Trump’s climate record is far more aggressive than the laissez-faire environmental policy promoted for years by business interests in his party. Indeed, as he has sought to zealously roll back regulations, even some of the world’s largest oil companies and automakers have opposed the moves, saying that they will lead to years of legal uncertainty that could actually harm their bottom lines.

“As an historic figure, he is one of the most culpable men in America contributing to the suffering and death that is now occurring through climate-related tragedy,” Jerry Brown, the former California governor who made climate change his signature issue, said in an interview on Sunday, though he was careful not to blame Mr. Trump specifically for the fires ravaging his state.

The president’s record is also more consequential, experts say, because the amount of planet-warming carbon dioxide trapped in the Earth’s atmosphere has now passed the point at which scientists say it would be possible to avert many of the worst effects of global warming — even if tough emissions policies are later enacted.

Mr. Biden’s presidential campaign is hoping to use Mr. Trump’s climate positions as a cudgel against him with independents and moderate Republicans. Christine Todd Whitman, the Republican former governor of New Jersey, is backing Mr. Biden’s candidacy in large part because of the president’s environmental policies.

“It’s mind-boggling, the ignorance that he displays on this subject,” Ms. Whitman said in an interview on Sunday. “He doesn’t understand climate change. He doesn’t particularly believe in science. It’s all about him and his re-election.”

“He doesn’t govern for all Americans,” she said.

On Saturday, Mr. Trump abruptly added the trip to McClellan Park, Calif., near Sacramento, to be briefed on the fires to an already scheduled West Coast fund-raising and campaign swing. He had come under intense criticism for weeks of silence on the increasingly deadly blazes that are consuming parts of California, Oregon and Washington — three Democratic-led states that he has feuded with for years.

. . .   But the president has often treated climate change and the environment as a deeply partisan issue, not unlike his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the recent racial upheaval in some cities, in which he has frequently lashed out at Democratic officials while praising the actions of Republicans.

Trump ended a ban on offshore oil drilling supported by the Republican governor in a key election-year state, even though he has refused to do the same for Democratic-led states in the Northeast.

At the event in front of supporters in Jupiter, Fla., Mr. Trump declared himself “a great environmentalist.”

In fact, Mr. Trump has repeatedly mocked the science of climate change since long before he ran for president. In 2012, he tweeted: “In the 1920’s people were worried about global cooling — it never happened. Now it’s global warming. Give me a break!” He also tweeted that the concept of climate change “was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”

The president has continued to take a dim view of climate science throughout his tenure, even as the government he oversees has reinforced the accepted threats to the future of the planet.

. . .   In 2017 and 2018, the federal government published a sweeping, two-volume scientific report, the National Climate Assessment, that represents the most authoritative and comprehensive conclusions to date about the causes and effects of climate change in the United States.

The report is clear about the causes — burning fossil fuels — and the effects: It found that the increased drought, flooding, storms and worsening wildfires caused by the warming planet could shrink the American economy by up to 10 percent by the end of the century.

Two days before the White House published the 2018 volume of that report, Mr. Trump mockingly tweeted, “Brutal and Extended Cold Blast could shatter ALL RECORDS — Whatever happened to Global Warming?”

In an interview a month before, he said of global warming, “I don’t know that it’s man-made,” and suggested that even as the planet warmed, “it will change back again” — an idea scientists have long debunked.

Farmville, Va., covid outbreak linked to ICE flights bringing agents to protests – The Washington Post

September 11, 2020 at 4:07 p.m. EDT

The Trump administration flew immigrant detainees to Virginia this summer to facilitate the rapid deployment of Homeland Security tactical teams to quell protests in Washington, circumventing restrictions on the use of charter flights for employee travel, according to a current and a former U.S. official.

After the transfer, dozens of the new arrivals tested positive for the novel coronavirus, fueling an outbreak at the Farmville, Va., immigration jail that infected more than 300 inmates, one of whom died.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the agency moved the detainees on “ICE Air” charter flights to avoid overcrowding at detention facilities in Arizona and Florida, a precaution they said was taken because of the pandemic.

But a Department of Homeland Security official with direct knowledge of the operation, and a former ICE official who learned about it from other personnel, said the primary reason for the June 2 transfers was to skirt rules that bar ICE employees from traveling on the charter flights unless detainees are also aboard.

Source: Farmville, Va., covid outbreak linked to ICE flights bringing agents to protests – The Washington Post

Opinion | Trump’s Coronavirus Response Was Beyond Incompetent – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Pictures of Detroit residents who died from Covid-19 lined the street for a drive-by memorial on Sept. 1.
Credit…Rebecca Cook/Reuters

“Most cases in which cars kill pedestrians surely reflect negligence: drivers who were too busy talking on their cellphones or thinking about their golf games to notice the senior citizen crossing the street in front of them. A handful are acts of murder, like when a man killed a woman by plowing his car into counterprotesters at a neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Va.

But sometimes drivers end up killing other people because they were engaging in clearly dangerous behavior, like driving well above the speed limit and running multiple red lights. The resulting deaths aren’t considered murder. But they might be considered manslaughter, which is when you didn’t specifically intend to kill someone but your irresponsible actions killed them all the same.

Until this week I thought that Donald Trump’s disastrous mishandling of Covid-19 was basically negligence, even if that negligence was willful — that is, that he failed to understand the gravity of the threat because he didn’t want to hear about it and refused to take actions that could have saved thousands of American lives because actually doing effective policy isn’t his kind of thing.

But I was wrong. According to Bob Woodward’s new book, “Rage,” Trump wasn’t oblivious; he knew by early February that Covid-19 was both deadly and airborne. And this isn’t a case of conflicting recollections: Woodward has Trump on tape. Yet Trump continued to hold large indoor rallies, disparage precautionary measures and pressure states to reopen business despite the risk of infection.

And he’s still doing the same things, even now.

In other words, a large fraction of the more than 200,000 Americans who will surely die of Covid-19 by Election Day will have been victims of something much worse than mere negligence.

Let’s be clear: A private citizen who did what we now know Trump did would definitely be in big legal trouble. For example, think of the lawsuits likely brought against a corporate C.E.O. who knew that his company’s workplace was dangerous, but lied about it, refused to take any precautions and threatened workers with dismissal if they failed to come in.

Now, Trump won’t face comparable accountability, partly because of the office he holds, partly because the party he leads is totally supine and won’t hold him accountable for anything. But let’s hold off on the savviness for a moment, OK? The enormity of Trump’s malfeasance should be the main story here, not speculation about whether he’ll face any consequences.

Are there any excuses for Trump’s actions? One argument you sometimes hear is that once you adjust for population you find that some European countries have lost around as many people to Covid-19 as Trump’s America — although our recent rate of new deaths is much higher, so we’ll soon be pulling away from the pack.

But when an ordinary citizen’s actions lead to someone else’s death, both circumstances and motivation matter.

Of the other high-death countries, Italy was the first Western nation to have a large outbreak, suffering many deaths before even the experts fully grasped what needed to be done.

Sweden and Britain suffered badly because they initially relied on the doctrine of “herd immunity” to resolve the pandemic. This was terrible policy, which Britain eventually abandoned. Sweden never officially changed its policy, although in practice it has ended up practicing a lot of social distancing.

But there’s a big difference between mistakes, however deadly, and deliberate deception. Only in America did the head of state know that he was reassuring people about a disease he knew was both deadly and easily spread.

Trump justified his concealment of Covid-19’s dangers as a desire to avoid “panic.” That’s pretty rich coming from the guy who began his presidency with warnings about “American carnage” and who’s currently trying to terrify suburbanites with visions of rampaging Antifa hordes. But what exactly were the dangers of panic that worried him?

After all, telling the truth about the coronavirus wouldn’t have been like shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater. The only things the truth might have scared people into doing would have been staying home where possible, avoiding crowds, washing their hands and so on. And these were all things people should have been doing — in fact, once people started “panicking” in places like New York, infection rates came way down.

Of course, we all have a pretty good idea what Trump was actually talking about: All through this crisis credible sources have reported that he wanted to downplay the crisis out of fear that bad news might hurt his beloved stock market. That is, he felt that he needed to sacrifice thousands of American lives to prop up the Dow.

As it happens, he was wrong: Stocks have stayed high despite an ever-rising death toll. But the fact that he was wrong about the trade-off doesn’t alter the fact that his willingness to make that trade-off was utterly immoral.

The bottom line is that it’s wrong to say that Trump mishandled Covid-19, that his response was incompetent. No, it wasn’t; it was immoral, bordering on criminal.” -30-

Opinion | When a Heart Is Empty – by David Brooks – The New York Times

“. . .  In his memoir, Carrère bears witness to the days of suffering and endurance that followed the wave. When Philippe tells his daughter and son-in-law about the death of their child, Juliette’s mother, Delphine, screams. Her husband thought, “I can no longer do anything for my daughter, so I will save my wife.”

Carrère had lamented that he had always been unable to love, but in those horrific days he and his girlfriend stayed with the family, searched among the corpses, enveloped the family with compassion and practical care. He observes how at mealtime Delphine’s hand shakes as she brings a forkful of curried rice to her lips

He is with Delphine when they come across a woman, Ruth, who was on her honeymoon and has lost track of her husband, Tom. For two days she sat outside the hospital, not eating or sleeping, convinced that if she nodded off Tom would never emerge alive from wherever he was.

“Her determination is frightening,” Carrère writes. “You can sense that she’s quite close to passing to the other side, into catatonia, living death, and Delphine and I understand that our role is to prevent this.”

Carrère’s memoir describes how a self-absorbed man is altered in crisis and develops a deep and perceptive capacity to see the struggles of others. The book is called “Lives Other Than My Own.”

I thought of that book this week because the sensitive perceptiveness Carrère displays is the opposite of the blindness Donald Trump displayed in quotes reported by Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic and Bob Woodward in his latest book about the administration, “Rage.”

Goldberg says Trump told people that he sees the war dead as “suckers” and “losers.” Trump can’t seem to fathom the emotional experience of their lives — their love for those they fought for, the fears they faced down, the resolve to risk their lives nonetheless.

If he can’t see that, he can’t understand the men and women in uniform serving around him. He can’t understand the inner devotion that drives people to public service, which is supposed to be the core of his job.

The same sort of blindness is on display in the Woodward quotes. It was stupid of Trump to think he could downplay Covid-19 when he already knew it had the power of a pandemic. It was stupid to think the American people would panic if told the truth. It was stupid to talk to Woodward in the first place.

This is not an intellectual stupidity. I imagine Trump’s I.Q. is fine. It is a moral and emotional stupidity. He blunders so often and so badly because he has a narcissist’s inability to get inside the hearts and minds of other people. It’s a stupidity that in almost pure clinical form, flows out of his inability to feel, a stupidity of the heart.

Opinion | ‘We’re No. 28! And Dropping!’ – By Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Johnathon Kelso for The New York Times

“This should be a wake-up call: New data suggest that the United States is one of just a few countries worldwide that is slipping backward.

The newest Social Progress Index, shared with me before its official release Thursday morning, finds that out of 163 countries assessed worldwide, the United States, Brazil and Hungary are the only ones in which people are worse off than when the index began in 2011. And the declines in Brazil and Hungary were smaller than America’s.

“The data paint an alarming picture of the state of our nation, and we hope it will be a call to action,” Michael Porter, a Harvard Business School professor and the chair of the advisory panel for the Social Progress Index, told me. “It’s like we’re a developing country.”

The index, inspired by research of Nobel-winning economists, collects 50 metrics of well-being — nutrition, safety, freedom, the environment, health, education and more — to measure quality of life. Norway comes out on top in the 2020 edition, followed by Denmark, Finland and New Zealand. South Sudan is at the bottom, with Chad, Central African Republic and Eritrea just behind.”

Bob Woodward’s New Book Says Trump Admitted Minimizing Coronavirus – By Maggie Haberman – The New York Times

“President Trump acknowledged to the journalist Bob Woodward that he knowingly played down the coronavirus earlier this year even though he was aware it was life-threatening and vastly more serious than the seasonal flu.

“This is deadly stuff,” Mr. Trump said on Feb. 7 in one of 18 interviews with Mr. Woodward for his coming book, “Rage.”

“You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed,” the president told Mr. Woodward in audio recordings made available on The Washington Post website. “And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flus.”

But three days after those remarks, Mr. Trump told the Fox Business anchor Trish Regan: “We’re in very good shape. We have 11 cases. And most of them are getting better very rapidly. I think they will all be better.” A little less than two weeks later, he told reporters on the South Lawn that “we have it very much under control in this country.”

By Feb. 26, the president was publicly dismissing concerns about the lethality of the virus. “It’s a little like the regular flu that we have flu shots for,” he said at a White House news conference. “And we’ll essentially have a flu shot for this in a fairly quick manner.”

And by Feb. 28, at a rally in South Carolina, Mr. Trump denounced Democrats for their concerns about the virus as “their new hoax,” after the Russia investigation and his impeachment.

The audio recordings show that as Mr. Trump was absorbing in real time the information he was given by health and national security experts, he made a conscious choice not only to mislead the public but also to actively pressure governors to reopen states before his own government guidelines said they were ready.”

5 Takeaways From ‘Rage,’ Bob Woodward’s New Book About Trump – By Aishvarya Kavi – The New York Times

By 

” “This is deadly stuff,” President Trump said of the coronavirus in a Feb. 7 interview with the journalist Bob Woodward for his upcoming book, “Rage.” But it was a vastly different story than he was telling the public at the time. Mr. Trump would later admit to Mr. Woodward that publicly, he “wanted to always” play down the severity of the virus.

Mr. Woodward conducted 18 interviews with the president for the book, which goes on sale next week. Mr. Trump also granted Mr. Woodward access to top officials inside the White House, revealing the inner workings of the president and his administration.

Here are five takeaways.

Despite knowing that the virus was “deadly” and highly contagious, he often publicly said the opposite, insisting that the virus would go away quickly.

“I wanted to always play it down,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Woodward on March 19. “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”

And while he was saying publicly that children were “almost immune” to the virus, he told Mr. Woodward in March: “Just today and yesterday, some startling facts came out. It’s not just old, older. Young people too — plenty of young people.”

In April, as he began to urge the country to reopen, Mr. Trump told Mr. Woodward of the virus, “It’s so easily transmissible, you wouldn’t even believe it.”

Gen. Jim Mattis, Mr. Trump’s former defense secretary, is quoted describing Mr. Trump as “dangerous” and “unfit” for the presidency in a conversation with Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence at the time. Mr. Coats himself was haunted by the president’s Twitter feed and believed that Mr. Trump’s gentle approach to Russia reflected something more sinister, perhaps that Moscow had “something” on the president.

“Maybe at some point we’re going to have to stand up and speak out,” Mr. Mattis told Mr. Coats in May 2019, according to the book. “There may be a time when we have to take collective action.”

Ultimately neither official spoke out.

Mr. Woodward quoted Mr. Trump denigrating senior American military officials to his trade adviser, Peter Navarro, during a 2017 meeting.

“They care more about their alliances than they do about trade deals,” the president said.

And in a discussion with Mr. Woodward, Mr. Trump called the U.S. military “suckers” for paying extensive costs to protect South Korea. Mr. Woodward wrote that he was stunned when the president said of South Korea, “We’re defending you, we’re allowing you to exist.”

Mr. Woodward also reports that Mr. Trump chewed out Mr. Coats after a briefing with reporters about the threat that Russia presented to the nation’s elections systems. Mr. Coats had gone further than he and the president had discussed beforehand.

Mr. Woodward pointed out that both he and Mr. Trump were “white, privileged” and asked if Mr. Trump was working to “understand the anger and the pain, particularly, Black people feel in this country.”

Mr. Trump replied, “No,” and added: “You really drank the Kool-Aid, didn’t you? Just listen to you. Wow. No, I don’t feel that at all.”

Mr. Woodward writes that he tried to coax the president into speaking about his understanding of race. But Mr. Trump would only say over and over that the economy had been positive for Black people before the coronavirus led to an economic crisis.

Mr. Trump provided Mr. Woodward with the details of letters between himself and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, in which the two men fawn over each other. Mr. Kim wrote in one letter that their relationship was like a “fantasy film.”

In describing his chemistry with Mr. Kim, Mr. Trump said: “You meet a woman. In one second, you know whether or not it’s going to happen.”

Mr. Trump also complained about the various investigations into ties between his campaign and Russia, saying that they were affecting his abilities as president and his relationship with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

“Putin said to me in a meeting, he said, it’s a shame, because I know it’s very hard for you to make a deal with us. I said, you’re right,” Mr. Trump said.”   end of article

David Lindsay: Now is a good time to support the Blue Wave.  And please subscribe to the NYT or one of its main competitors if you possible can.

A Law-and-Order Push by Trump, but Little Change in Biden’s Lead – By Nate Cohn – The New York Times

By 

“Despite the spotlight of the Republican convention and the unrest in Portland, Ore., and Kenosha, Wis., a big wave of new polls Wednesday showed that President Trump continues to trail Joe Biden by a significant margin both nationwide and in the critical battleground states.

On average, Mr. Biden maintains a lead of around seven to eight percentage points among likely voters nationwide, down from a lead of eight to nine points heading into the conventions. In a direct comparison, an average of the new polls showed Mr. Trump faring a mere seven-tenths of a point better than polls by the same firms conducted in early August before the Democratic National Convention.

The new results suggest that the president’s effort to reframe the race around law and order at the Republican convention hasn’t fundamentally reshaped the race to his advantage; Mr. Biden, in fact, won stronger approval on that issue in crucial states, according to new Fox News polls.

For now, at least, Mr. Trump finds himself in an unenviable position: He trails by a wide margin, even at a moment that usually represents the high-water mark for the president’s party in the polls. More often than not, a president goes on to fare worse in election results than in the polls taken just after the convention.”

How Trump is Sowing Distrust – By Maggie Haberman and Katie Rogers – The New York Times

“Donald J. Trump leaned forward in his chair in the Capitol Hill hearing room, tossed aside his prepared remarks as too “boring” and told lawmakers on an October day in 1993 that granting gaming licenses to Native American reservations in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut — a threat to Mr. Trump’s own casinos — would be a big mistake.

There were criminal elements at work in the reservations, he warned ominously and without evidence. “It will be the biggest scandal ever, the biggest since Al Capone,” Mr. Trump said.

Then he went a step further and cast doubt on the Native Americans themselves. “If you look at some of the reservations that you’ve approved, that you, sir, in your great wisdom have approved,” Mr. Trump told Representative George Miller, a California Democrat who has since retired, “I will tell you right now: They don’t look like Indians to me.”

For decades, President Trump has sown distrust in almost everything he touches. From Native Americans and business competition in New York to President Barack Obama’s birthplace to America’s intelligence agencies to the special counsel investigation he calls the “Russia hoax,” Mr. Trump’s goal has been to undermine the opposition, rely on conspiracy theories to discount any evidence that might discredit him — and, above all, leave people uncertain about what to believe.”

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