The Attorney General for the Person of the US Receives Scrutiny

The Attorney General for the People Person of the US Receives Scrutiny

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Bill Barr Image courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org

Once again I must turn to Bill-Barr
To examine behavior bizarre;
This is not the first time
That things seem to skirt crime
And his antics sink less than subpar.

Barr’s descent has made some feel quite sad
For the straight-shooter rep that he’d had;
But the gloss is long gone
And the battles he’s won
Have been awfully, terribly bad.

You recall when the Mueller Report
Raised questions of quite grave import?
Barr’s goal was persuasion
Of exoneration;
No Russians? Of course nyet, he’d retort.

He’s the President’s guy, that’s quite clear
In every last case that we hear;
According to his lights,
The Executive’s rights
Are absolute (I quiver in fear!).

He’s helped various convicted men
Such as Roger Stone and Mike Flynn
Although Flynn confessed twice,
His lies didn’t suffice–
Barr found “hinky stuff” made the case thin.

It was Bill-Barr who served as the source
Of that outside White House show of force–
When those marching in peace
Were peppered by police
While generals in haste reversed course.

And then came a Friday night surprise:
The US attorney’s job demise;
Though Barr said Berman quit,
Berman had none of it–
So was pushed out the door by sunrise.

Berman said that ongoing cases
Will move along on the same basis;
That appears an alert
He was nearing pay dirt,
Leading to some powerful places.

Expect Barr to go on the offense
With “findings” purportedly immense
The purpose: to confuse
It will all be a ruse
And may well be at Biden’s expense.

So what should happen now to Bill-Barr,
Who’s done damage that’s been wide and far?
Will the Dems try impeach
For his gross overreach?
Or at least, let us hope he’s disbarred!

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Image courtesy of pixabay.com

Note: It is unclear at this point whether Barr will appear before the House Judiciary Committee, which he has agreed to do on July 28, to explain his sudden firing of Geoffrey Berman, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and his handling of other cases.

Two existing Department of Justice employees appeared before the Committee this week to express their dismay at the politicization of the department under Barr, including pressure to get a lighter sentence for the President’s convicted friend Roger Stone and interference in antitrust decisions based on his personal preferences–not the legalities.

But the most damning comment came from Donald B. Ayer, deputy attorney general under President George Bush, seen here on video explaining why Barr’s actions are setting the US “on the way to something far worse than Watergate.”

Previously, in an article in The Atlantic,  Ayer had gone into considerable and specific detail about the damage that Barr is doing to our Justice Department and the rule of law.

His conclusion:

“Bill Barr’s America is not a place that anyone, including Trump voters, should want to go. It is a banana republic where all are subject to the whims of a dictatorial president and his henchmen. To prevent that, we need a public uprising demanding that Bill Barr resign immediately, or failing that, be impeached.”

Annie

Continue reading “The Attorney General for the Person of the US Receives Scrutiny”

Another Acrostic: Joe Biden’s VP Choice?

A Person Who Deserves Serious Consideration:

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Image from commons.wikimedia.org

Very strong as impeachment manager
African American woman
Lives in a swing state (Florida)

Devoted to the law**
Eloquent cop/public link: former police chief
Modest beginnings—parents: maid, janitor
Innovator—programs for at-risk kids
Notable 40% drop in violent crime
Graduate in criminology; Masters Public Admin
Serves on Homeland Security, Judiciary Committees

…soft-spoken, straightforward, and rides a Harley!

_______________

Note: I have followed Congresswoman Val Demings with interest since watching her impressive performance during the impeachment hearings. She was thoughtful, measured, and a steely tough but polite questioner.

Though I wish she had more international experience, in view of what our current turmoil has revealed about our urgent societal needs, I’ve been wondering if this former police chief might be the perfect candidate for VP.

When I read her recent Washington Post Op-Ed, “My fellow brothers and sisters in blue, what the hell are you doing?,” from which I quoted in an earlier post, I was further convinced that she’s quite special.

Here’s her conclusion:

“Everyone wants to live in safer communities and to support law enforcement and the tough job they do every day. But this can’t go on. The senseless deaths of America’s sons and daughters — particularly African American men — is a stain on our country. Let’s work to remove it.

“We have got to get this one right. Our communities, good police officers and generations yet to come deserve it.”

Here are a few of the comments she made about President Trump’s behavior before and during the impeachment hearings.

Last December, she tweeted the following:

**“I am a descendant of slaves, who knew that they would not make it, but dreamed and prayed that one day I would make it. So despite America’s complicated history, my faith is in the Constitution. I’ve enforced the laws, and now I write the laws. Nobody is above the law.”

She said this during the hearings to explain the importance of the process:

“This moment is about ensuring that every voter, whether a maid or janitor, whether a nurse, a teacher, or a truck driver, whether a doctor or a mechanic, that their vote matters and that American elections are decided by the American people.”

And then I saw this on Twitter from Dave Wasserman of The Cook Political Report:

“A few days ago, I asked a high-ranking R [Republican] whom Biden would be wise to pick as VP.”

Answer: “A black woman who grew up poor, rose from beat cop to police chief, comes from a swing state and rides a Harley? That’s a profile I’d be scared to run against right now if I were Trump.”

What do you think?

Annie

Continue reading “Another Acrostic: Joe Biden’s VP Choice?”

The Allegations Against Biden: The Press Presses On…

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Image courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org

In my previous post, I expressed my belief in Joe Biden’s innocence of charges of sexual assault made by former staffer Tara Reade, as well as my great concern that the press will keep the story alive, thereby damaging an innocent man and threatening his candidacy for President against Donald Trump.

I stated my concern that the story would be covered with a fervor I do not feel is justified by the facts as we know them.

I didn’t discuss the now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings in that post (except in the comments section) because I think comparisons with the charge against Biden are totally off base. 

So does New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg. She remains skeptical about Biden but dismisses criticisms that the Democrats, in defending Biden, show hypocrisy when compared with their defense of Kavanaugh’s accuser.  

The Democrats, she writes, “would never have the audacity to demand that their political opponents act on a story with as many ambiguities as Reade’s.” 

But I must say the two men’s reactions tell me much about temperament and character.

You may recall that when Christine Blasey Ford claimed that Kavanaugh had assaulted her, he yelled and cried at his hearings about the terrible injustices being done to him.

In contrast, Biden quietly but emphatically said, “It never happened,” and he declined to attribute motives to his accuser, Tara Reade, or to say anything about her character. 

At a fundraiser among Obama alumni last week, Biden said the following, which I find extraordinary (he’s more tolerant than I am):

“My knowledge that it isn’t true does nothing to shake my belief that women have to be able to be heard and that all the claims be taken seriously. It isn’t enough just to simply take my word for it and to dismiss it out of hand.

“Frankly, that shouldn’t be enough for anyone, because we know that this sort of approach is exactly how the culture of abuse has been allowed to fester for so long.

“I’m heartened to see it, although it’s painful sometimes, that by and large journalists are doing what they’re supposed to do. 

“They’re going out there listening to the allegations. They’re taking it seriously and they’re investigating it. And they’re talking with folks who were there at the time, scrutinizing personnel records, examining the evolution of the claims, looking into the culture of our office.

“And I’m not concerned about what they might find, because I know the truth of the matter. I know that this claim has no merit.”

I fear Biden’s confidence may be misplaced. The press is honing in.

And despite the fact that he was the overwhelming favorite among primary voters, some people who didn’t vote for Biden seem to be eager to push this story to justify a do-over. Bernie Sanders’s supporters are evident in this campaign.

The Washington Post just published an Op-Ed by Lyz Lenz, a columnist for the Cedar Rapids Gazette and a victim of sexual abuse.

She insists Biden must withdraw, dismissing all the contradictions in his accuser’s stories as part of the inevitable cycle of questioning that victims of sexual assault must endure. 

She does compare the Biden and Kavanaugh episodes and says the Republicans should have withdrawn Kavanaugh (which was never a consideration), thereby equating the two.

Having determined that Reade’s charges are “credible,” she writes:

“I do not want to be forced to balance the accusations against Biden and Trump—playing the ‘Which is worse?’ game. But that is what I’m being told to do.” 

I don’t know who is telling her she has to do that, but I trust I’m not the only one who sees the nonsense in that comparison.

And here are her ideas about how the Democrats should handle this issue:

Bernie Sanders could jump back in, or other candidates might (she caucused for Elizabeth Warren), or the party leaders might pick a governor who’s handled the pandemic well. 

As I’ve said, Biden wasn’t my first choice, but I do think his experience and compassion make him right for our time.

And can you imagine anything more anti-democratic than nullifying all those voters’ wishes because of a single and highly questionable allegation by one woman? 

I have seen any number of Twitter tweets from African American voters responding to the Bernie devotees’ campaign for his reentry. They expressed what I believe is justifiable outrage that their votes would be summarily dismissed. 

And if party leaders acted on Lenz’s idea and suddenly came up with a nominee whom not a single Democrat had voted for, the Bernie folks’ charges that the party, not the people, were determining the outcome (charges that were put to rest by the primary vote in the eyes of most observers) would surely be an issue.

One can see the mischief lying ahead by considering another woman who has just come forth.  A niece of Christine O’Donnell, a former Tea Party Republican Senatorial candidate, claims that Biden commented on her breasts when both attended the 2008 Gridiron dinner—and she was just 14! 

Sounds extremely offensive (as well as similar to complaints against Trump).  But as it happens, Biden wasn’t there; one of his aides had substituted for him because Biden was having surgery that week.

So the woman said it must have been 2007. But Biden wasn’t there then either.

As former prosecutor Michael Stern observed in his USA Today  piece asserting Biden’s innocence, which I quoted from in my previous post, the fact that Reade can’t remember date, time, or location makes it impossible for Biden to disprove the allegation by providing evidence to the contrary. 

I believe the same is true with the missing complaint—in which Reade now says she’s not sure exactly what she’d actually charged—something about his making her feel “uncomfortable,” she thinks.

She had all her personnel records, but she just didn’t keep, or misplaced, the one document that she says was the most important aspect of her interactions with Biden. The New York Times investigation couldn’t find it.

And yet, the burden is on Biden to open up his entire political life. The Times Editorial Board, in what a friend deemed “a statement of breathtaking naivete,” not only called upon Biden to give access to his papers; it said that honorable Republicans should call on Trump to do the same.

As I concluded in my previous post: 

There were mea culpas after the damage was done from members of the media for obsessing over Hillary’s emails in 2016 while letting Donald Trump off the hook. That must not happen again.

Professor Heather Cox Richardson, a political historian at Boston College, has reached a similar conclusion about Trump and the media with regard to the accusation against Biden.

“…Please follow me here: I am not speaking of the claims of Ms. Reade, which are a separate conversation. I am talking about the use of her story to control our political narrative. 

“The attempt to get Biden to jump through hoops Trump ignores is classic gaslighting. It keeps Biden on the defensive and makes sure he is reinforcing Trump’s narrative, thus strengthening Trump even as Biden tries to carve out his own campaign. It is precisely what the Trump campaign, abetted by the media, did in 2016.”

As the friend I quoted earlier observed: 

“This will be a rough and tumble campaign, and we cannot shrink from the fight. Biden has stepped up to the challenge and met it head-on. We must demand the same of Trump, knowing that he will never comply. 

“In the ‘what are you hiding?’ contest, Trump loses badly. Steel yourself for more difficult moments but take heart from the fact that the electorate is turning on Trump…

“It will be a close election and will be hard-fought, but we are up to the task. Put doubts aside and move forward with all deliberate speed!

And if you feel as I do that the press–in its admirable zeal to be fair–may be falling into the same damaging role that it played in 2016, please consider writing letters to the editor or otherwise making your opinions known.

Annie

Continue reading “The Allegations Against Biden: The Press Presses On…”

Why I Believe Joe Biden Did Not Commit Sexual Assault

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Image courtesy of hsb wikimedia.org.

This post began as an exploration of presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden’s positions on the issues. I imagined myself chatting with him while he was  endeavoring to campaign from his basement.

But the charges of sexual assault against him by a former staffer, Tara Reade, are getting a good deal of media attention.

Biden was slow to respond, allowing former staffers to speak on his behalf. But Friday morning, he issued a statement, which you can read here.

He speaks of his pride in the role he played in developing the Violence Against Women Act, and then he says:

“In the 26 years since the law passed, the culture and perceptions have changed but we’re not done yet. It’s on us, and it’s on me as someone who wants to lead this country.

“I recognize my responsibility to be a voice, an advocate, and a leader for the change in culture that has begun but is nowhere near finished. So I want to address allegations by a former staffer that I engaged in misconduct 27 years ago.

“They aren’t true. This never happened.

“While the details of these allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault are complicated, two things are not complicated.

“One is that women deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, and when they step forward they should be heard, not silenced.

“The second is that their stories should be subject to appropriate inquiry and scrutiny.

“Responsible news organizations should examine and evaluate the full and growing record of inconsistencies in her story, which has changed repeatedly in both small and big ways.”

He goes into detail about inconsistencies that I’ll cover shortly, and then he concludes:

“We have a lot of work to do. From confronting online harassment, abuse, and stalking, to ending the rape kit backlog, to addressing the deadly combination of guns and domestic violence.

“We need to protect and empower the most marginalized communities, including immigrant and indigenous women, trans women, and women of color.

“We need to make putting an end to gender-based violence in both the United States and around the world a top priority.

“I started my work over 25 years ago with the passage of the Violence Against Women Act. As president, I’m committed to finishing the job.”

I emphatically agree that all women who claim to have been sexually assaulted deserve a fair and respectful hearing and the presumption that they are telling the truth.

And then their stories must be fully vetted by impartial observers. I am questioning whether that is happening in this case.

Former Vice President Biden wasn’t my first choice as the Democratic nominee. I do worry about his age and health—but not about his mental acuity. I’ve watched him any number of times lately, and he seems totally with it and highly informed and sensible.

At a CNN Town Hall shortly before this abrupt end to the primaries, he was actually terrific on substance, performance, and connection with questioners.

Nor do I worry that he’s a sexual predator. I hadn’t thought I’d have to address the sexual assault charge against him in this post, but it seems to be gathering steam, and I see it as a dangerous, misguided attempt by the press to pursue a story without due diligence.

Keep in mind that Joe Biden was fully vetted by President Obama’s team before he was chosen to be Obama’s Vice President. He served as Vice President for 8 years without a whiff of scandal.

It seems inconceivable to me that the Republicans would not have found any “dirt” on Biden if such an issue had existed.

We do know that eight women, including Reade, complained last year that Biden had inappropriately kissed, hugged, or touched them.

According to The New York Times, he “acknowledged the women’s complaints about his conduct, saying his intentions were benign and promising to be “more mindful and respectful of people’s personal space.”

Biden is widely regarded for his warmth, toward both men and women. He has been a hugger, a touchy-feely kind of guy. At one time, that behavior was fully acceptable. It no longer is, and he understands that.

In his current statement, he says he will “continue to learn from women, to listen to women, to support women, and yes, to make sure women’s voices are heard.”

It’s worth noting that Tara Reade’s original 1993 complaint did not include sexual assault: she made that charge in March of this year and filed a police report in April.

I have seen Ari Melber and Chris Hayes of MSNBC, and New York Magazine writer Rebecca Traister all say the fact that an old friend (who says she’s voting for Biden) validated that Reade told her the story contemporaneously makes them take it very seriously.

In fact, it wasn’t contemporaneously, which means close enough in time so that memories are fresh. It was several years later. And Reade called the friend to apparently refresh her memory.

In addition, none of those I heard seems to have considered that a friend could be repeating a lie without realizing it.

But former prosecutor Michael J. Stern does explore this possibility in his compelling article in USA Today.

“The problem with statements from friends is that the information they recount is only as good as the information given to them.”

I am linking to Stern’s article and other sources that have persuaded me that Tara Reade is not telling the truth.

For those who don’t have the time to read through them, I’m quoting what I think are the most significant points.

First, Stern’s orientation: as a former sex crimes prosecutor, he writes:

“When women make allegations of sexual assault, my default response is to believe them. But as the news media have investigated Reade’s allegations, I’ve become increasingly skeptical.”

His reasons include the following:

She has changed any number of details in her story a number of times, with “implausible explanations.”

Aside from the highly questionable one about changing what she says Biden did to her,  she lied about losing her job.

She originally told The Union, a California newspaper, in 2019 that she refused Biden’s request to serve drinks at an event, and then “felt pushed out and left Biden’s employ,” according to The Union.

But she told The New York Times last month that she faced retaliation after filing a sexual harassment complaint with the Senate’s personnel office, and Biden’s chief of staff fired her.

To Stern, the disparity between those two assertions “raises questions about Reade’s credibility and account of events.”

The three former Biden staffers whom she claimed to have told about the assault emphatically denied she did so.

“And they did not offer the standard, noncommittal ‘I don’t remember any such complaints,”‘ Stern writes. “The denials were firm.” One said: “‘She did not come to me. If she had, I would have remembered.'” Another’s comment was similar.

The third said:

“‘I never once witnessed, or heard of, or received any reports of inappropriate conduct (by Biden),  period.’ If Reade had made such a complaint to her, she added, it ‘would have left a searing impression on me as a woman professional, and as a manager.'”

Although Reade provided a copy of her 1993 Senate employment records, she has no copy of the complaint she claims she filed against Biden when she left, or was fired, from her job in Biden’s office.

Nor could The New York Times  find such a document. Biden has said he’ll ask The National Archives, where such documents reside, to do a search.

She couldn’t recall the date, time, or location of the alleged assault.

To Stern,

“Reade’s amnesia about specifics makes it impossible for Biden to go through records and prove he could not have committed the assault, because he was somewhere else at the time.”

–She says she told her mother (now deceased) and her brother.

But when her brother was interviewed by The Washington Post, he didn’t mention the sexual assault–the most important part of her charge–but texted that detail to The Post several days later.

Stern finds that time gap questionable.

Similarly, her mother was, according to her, the anonymous caller to The Larry King Live show in 1993. That call was reported as new evidence last week.

The caller said her daughter had been working for a prominent Senator, “could not get through with her problems at all,” and chose not to go to the press “out of respect for him.”

Writes Stern:

“Given that the call was anonymous, Reade’s mother should have felt comfortable relaying the worst version of events. When trying to obtain someone’s assistance, people typically do not downplay the seriousness of an incident. They exaggerate it.

“That Reade’s mother said nothing about her daughter being sexually assaulted would lead many reasonable people to conclude that sexual assault was not the problem that prompted the call to King.”

–Multiple times, in 2017, she praised Biden for his work combating sexual assault. She also tweeted: “My old boss speaks truth. Listen.”

Stern writes:

“It is bizarre that Reade would publicly laud Biden for combatting the very thing she would later accuse him of doing to her.”

–Also in 2017, Reade was condemning Vladimir Putin’s efforts to harm American democracy by interfering in the 2016 election.

But in 2018, she referred to Putin as a “genius” whose athleticism is “intoxicating to American women.”

She wrote:

President Putin has an alluring combination of strength with gentleness. His sensuous image projects his love for life, the embodiment of grace while facing adversity.”

By 2019 she had expressed the belief that Russian interference in the 2016 election was hype.

More recently, she has claimed that her expressions of admiration for Putin, made in opinion pieces, were taken out of context for a novel she’s writing, and she doesn’t support Putin.

Stern provides other compelling examples as well. His examination is well worth reading.

–Also illuminating is the information provided by Lynn Hummer, founder of a California horse sanctuary where Reade was a volunteer from 2014-2016.

According to an article in Medium, Hummer claims that Reade “stole from her nonprofit, lied, and created stories to obtain sympathy and money.”

Hummer said:

“Look, this isn’t about protecting women. This isn’t about the #metoo movement. This isn’t about Joe Biden. This is about truth. Tara Reade stole from me. She lied to me. She stole from my organization. She manipulated me and she duped me…And I have documentation, images and emails to prove it.”

Biden, to his credit, has said he’s not going to question Reade’s motives, though he doesn’t understand why she’s making the charge.

I think one of the reasons it’s so problematic for Biden and his supporters to speak openly about this issue is that to respond honestly, they would be casting aspersions on Tara Reade’s integrity and mental stability.

In this #metoo era, that is difficult to do. We are not talking here about all the women who succeeded, at last, in getting justice from Harvey Weinstein.

As Stern concludes:

“We can support the #MeToo movement and not support allegations of sexual assault that do not ring true. If these two positions cannot coexist, the movement is no more than a hit squad. That’s not how I see the #MeToo movement. It’s too important, for too many victims of sexual assault and their allies, to be no more than that.”

Chris Hayes, whose original reportage was so roundly condemned on Twitter that it morphed into a #FireChrisHayes movement (which I condemn), discussed the three groups of attacks he received.

The first and second groups he could accept:  people who supported Biden and people who said “I don’t care; I’m voting for him anyway.”

But the third group–people who attacked Reade and cited other things about her, such as her strange fascination with Putin–he claimed, was doing just what the #metoo movement was designed to counter.

Hayes’s comments gave me pause because in citing Stern and Hummer, I am falling into that third group.

But how can we arrive at the truth if we simply focus on a single incident that inevitably comes down to a “he said; she said” dispute?

To me, hearing independent complaints from Hummer, the horse rescue woman, that Reade had manipulated and stolen money from her, is relevant to character.

Her comments about Putin, I feel, are an indication of instability. Can an unstable person still be a victim of abuse? No doubt, but all these are pieces in a puzzle.

When that puzzle threatens the integrity of a man whose otherwise worst charge was that he inappropriately hugged women who didn’t want to be hugged, I think all the pieces should be considered.

Experts in sexual abuse nearly uniformly say there is always a pattern–not a single instance.

I greatly worry that the press will make this into a “Hillary’s email” issue–though the topic is much more visceral, especially for women, who will be the deciding voters in the November election.

There are already calls for the University of Delaware to release his papers–despite his saying they have no personnel information and contain private conversations with President Obama and foreign leaders.

There are valid reasons that politicians uniformly keep their papers closed to the public until after they’ve left the political scene.

Nevertheless, this demand is made on today’s New York Times editorial page, which offers the following:

“Any inventory should be strictly limited to information about Ms. Reade and conducted by an unbiased, apolitical panel, put together by the D.N.C. [Democratic National Committee] and chose to foster as much trust in its findings as possible.”

All such demands seem to me ludicrous in these hyper-partisan times, and particularly unfair because the existing President has gotten away with hiding his income tax returns and a slew of other documents.

Why on earth should Biden do what to my knowledge no other candidate has done–and certainly not this most duplicitous and evasive opponent?

So I am deeply concerned that this drumbeat may seriously weaken the candidacy of a good man, and lead to Donald Trump’s reelection–he who has been charged by at least 12 women of sexual assault, including one who states that he raped her, and was elected despite having been shown on tape describing his modus operandi for sexual assault.

Press sources are saying this story of Biden’s alleged sexual assault of Reade now has “legs”–it’s not going away.

Of course the press has to follow this story to its conclusion. But they must look more closely at Reade’s contradictions, as Michael Stern has. And anyone who interviews Reade must ask her, politely, to explain her changed stories.

Many prosecutors and sexual assault victims on Twitter have agreed with Stern’s conclusions.

In important ways, I feel that Joe Biden is the ideal person to lead us now: his recent experience in the White House involved combating epidemics, resolving serious economic crises, and expanding health care—all critical to our near-term societal needs.

In addition, his obvious compassion is critically important for our hurt nation. And his willingness to work across the aisle suggests that if any bipartisan efforts are possible, he’ll be in a good position to take advantage of them.

I’ll leave my chat with him on the issues for another time–when I hope this story will fold its legs and–at the very least–give a closer look at all the charges against President Trump, whose behavior actually deserves scrutiny.

There were mea culpas after the damage was done from members of the media for obsessing over Hillary’s emails in 2016 while letting Donald Trump off the hook. That must not happen again. 

Annie

Continue reading “Why I Believe Joe Biden Did Not Commit Sexual Assault”

The President’s Daily Coronavirus Briefings–What Do You Think the Press Should Do? My Reassessment

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Image courtesy of flickr.com

I am hoping that recent events will make the reason for this post irrelevant. But I have my doubts. Despite efforts by his staff to persuade him to limit his appearances at daily press briefings, this President does not seem capable of surrendering the limelight.

In my April 8 post on this topic, I expressed some ambivalence about the idea that the press should no longer cover these briefings live at all.

It was never my belief that they needed to show the two-plus hour nightly events in their soul-sapping entirety, but I also wondered whether disbanding live coverage completely might be a bad precedent.

The approach that some were following seemed to be a good compromise: airing a portion and then cutting away, rather than dropping long-held norms just because he was slashing and burning them.

On Friday, I heard Eli Stokols, a White House reporter for the Los Angeles Times, say that covering this President raises profound problems for the press and is in fact, the central issue for them at this point.

I can imagine that most, if not all, members of the Fourth Estate are struggling to determine how to do their jobs when faced with the double whammy of a pandemic that requires them to deliver timely information to the public—and a President who lies, contradicts himself, insults them, and seems to care not one whit about anyone or anything but himself.

And then, as you know, this President offhandedly suggested that the scientists should look into the question of whether drinking or injecting disinfectants could be a possible treatment for the coronavirus.

For me, that was a moment of clarity.

He faced others on the podium as he raised what he apparently thought was a clever idea, and his scientific adviser, Dr. Deborah Birx, to her discredit, remained silent, eventually mumbling “not a treatment.” She wilted.

Stokols and his colleagues at the LA Times reacted with some thoughtful reporting and observations:

“A slew of federal and state agencies — and the makers of laundry bleach — issued an implicit rebuke to President Trump on Friday, warning the public that his off-the-cuff medical advice and off-the-wall musings in nightly White House briefings could endanger even more lives as the country’s coronavirus death toll passed 50,000…

“Trump’s inclination to view his rhetoric as fungible — his comments are often intentionally open-ended and then open to ex post facto dismissals — reflects a lifelong effort by a highly public figure to blur context and avoid consequences for his comments and actions.”

“Trump’s shifting and often self-contradictory comments are not a bug but a feature of his nightly briefings, where, even amid a profound national crisis and widespread anxiety, questions and specifics typically drown in a sea of self-lavished superlatives.

“Last week, he managed to flip-flop three times on how quickly to lift stay-at-home orders, first insisting that he had “total” authority to order states to reopen, then telling governors that they, not he, had that authority, and then urging citizens to protest decisions by the governors and “liberate” their states.

“When pressed Thursday as to why he continued to float untested and potentially dangerous remedies from the presidential podium, Trump lashed out at the reporter who questioned him.
“I’m the president and you’re fake news,” he said. “I’m just here to present talent. I’m here to present ideas, because we want ideas to get rid of this thing. And if heat is good and if sunlight is good, that’s a great thing as far as I’m concerned.”

The next day, the President falsely claimed that he was sarcastically responding to a hostile press query.

In the meantime, while all responsible parties have been trying to contain the pandemic, protect the public, and find scientifically sound ways to consider when it’s safe to lift the quarantine,  Trump’s suggestion that internal disinfectants were worth considering caused consternation and warnings from many quarters.

So many people spent so much valuable time that should have been devoted to more worthy efforts as this gargantuan threat persists.

Those who raced to address this obvious danger ranged from the Consumer Product Safety Commission to the US Surgeon General to the American Chemistry Council to the makers of Chlorox and Lysol, among others.

And former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, exerting leadership from his basement, tweeted:

“I can’t believe I have to say this, but please don’t drink bleach.”

Lest you think that Americans wouldn’t be foolish enough to consider such a ridiculous idea, the Maryland Emergency Management Agency reported that its emergency hotline received more than 100 inquiries about whether the injection or ingestion of disinfectants could be a cure for COVID-19.

Reading that, the noted Constitutional scholar Lawrence Tribe tweeted:

“What worries me is how many DIDN’T call but just tried Trump’s insane experiment on themselves or their kids.”

On April 24, Congressman Adam Schiff tweeted:

“A week ago I asked whether it was responsible to carry Trump’s nightly stream of consciousness on live TV.

Today, he suggested drinking or injecting disinfectants or ‘sunlight’ to kill the virus.

So I will ask again: What value is there to this spectacle?”

There’s no longer any doubt in my mind. I fully agree with Adam Schiff. We have a President who is hazardous to our health. He needs to be quarantined—his every word fact-checked and accurately reported.

And it’s just as important that the press and cable TV programs stop allowing him to control the narrative. The public needs information.

That’s why they listen so intently when New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks—or Maryland Governor Larry Hogan—or the mayors who have been thrown in disarray when the governors of their states have precipitously decided to disregard scientific caution and remove the quarantines.

We’re not getting information from these press conferences. We’re getting bad theater, farce-turned-deadly.

As many have pointed out, his wacky schemes often serve as a distraction: reporters must follow the story and not ask their questions about the climbing and undoubtedly underreported incidence of infection and death and—his protestations notwithstanding—the lack of adequate testing, largely because he refuses to exert power when he really must.

Here’s a possible example of what might have been reported immediately after Trump made his bizarre recommendation.

“President Trump suggested today that ingesting or injecting disinfectants might be a treatment for coronavirus. This is a dangerous suggestion that could prove lethal, as the makers of Chlorox and Lysol rushed to emphasize. We regret to report that you will endanger your health and possibly lose your life if you listen to the President.

“And now, here’s a report on the impact of the lifting of regulations to prevent water pollution in neighboring communities…” or “Here’s the latest on President Trump’s pressuring the United Kingdom to bail out his failing golf course in Scotland….” or “What will the implications be from the President’s recent temporary Executive Order halting the issuance of many new green cards?”

With his poll numbers plummeting, his staff is reportedly engaged in an effort to persuade him to shorten these dreadful marathons. That is, at least, a start. But we’ll see if they’re successful, and if so, for how long.

He’s not suitable for prime time.

Annie

Continue reading “The President’s Daily Coronavirus Briefings–What Do You Think the Press Should Do? My Reassessment”

A Call to Action: Let’s Honor the Wisconsin Voters and Protect Our Democracy!

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Wisconsin Voters waiting to vote. Photo by Mike de Sisti/USA Today Reuters

The Problem(s)

Wow! Said she who always endeavors to be optimistic. Are we in trouble! First and foremost, of course, is this pandemic hanging over and among us. But the November election isn’t far off, and with so much uncertainty about how wide the pandemic will spread and how long it will last, the concept of voting by mail is an obvious imperative. 

Yet this President, who now insists his powers are absolute, is claiming that vote-by-mail is a giant fraud that shouldn’t be allowed. Why? If we allow the Democrats to include funding in the next coronavirus relief package to expand voting opportunities and allow more widespread vote-by-mail in response to the pandemic, he said, “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.” 

In this case, he is simply voicing publicly what Republicans have been doing quietly for years. As The New York Times reports: 

“The push to limit voting options is in keeping with Republicans’ decades-running campaign to impose restrictions that disproportionately affect people of color, the poor, and younger voters, under the banner of combating voter fraud, which is exceedingly rare.”

In another article, the Times observed:

“Studies have shown that all forms of voting fraud are extremely rare in the United States. A national study in 2016 found few credible allegations of fraudulent voting. A panel that Mr. Trump charged with investigating election corruption found no real evidence of fraud before he disbanded it in 2018. “

Indeed, Charles Stewart III of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a political science professor who studies “the machinations of voting” observed:

“What we know can be boiled down to this: Voting fraud in the United States is rare, less rare is fraud using mail ballots.”

In the face of the lack of evidence, the Republicans persist. The reason is fear of loss of power. As I’ll note below, their fears aren’t even justified. 

But the operative concept is–or should be–quite simple: One Person, One Vote. You either believe that as many people should vote as possible, or you can’t claim to be representatives of our small d democratic republic. This is a huge issue.

So it’s clear to me that in response, we need a huge Democratic turnout reaching all levels of government in November—not just to save our democracy—but also, because of the mishandling of the pandemic by Trump and some Republican governors, to save our lives. 

And that means every vote must be allowed to be cast and counted—no easy task. There are lots of impediments, both built-in (eg, the Electoral College), and human made (eg, gerrymandering, racial targeting, Russian interference). See this New York Times article about the complexities involved. 

I think it behooves us all—as concerned citizens also acting in enlightened self-interest—to demand that our electoral mechanisms are as geared up as possible to ensure the election results echo the voters’ intent.

Here’s Some Good News In That Regard

—Senators Amy Klobuchar and Ron Wyden have introduced a vote-by-mail bill that they hope to get into the next Coronavirus relief package. It’s called The Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act and “would expand early in-person voting and no-excuse absentee vote-by-mail to all states and would reimburse states for additional costs in administering elections during the coronavirus pandemic.”

In an Op-Ed in The New York Times, Senator Klobuchar writes: 

“And if you want to know what it’s like to vote in a healthy, safe and secure way—from the comfort of your own home—just ask President Trump. He’s been doing it for years.

—Michelle Obama’s nonpartisan voting group, When We All Vote, has announced its support for expanding vote-by-mail, online voter registration, and early voting. Calling those efforts “critical steps for this moment,” she stated: 

“There is nothing partisan about striving to live up to the promise of our country: making the democracy we all cherish more accessible, and protecting our neighbors, friends and loved ones as they participate in this cornerstone of American life.

—The National Task Force on Election Crises, a “diverse, cross-partisan group of more than 40 experts in election law,  election administration, national security, cybersecurity, voting rights, civil rights, technology, public health, and emergency response,” has set forth goals that include expanding no-excuse absentee vote-by-mail; maximizing early voting days and hours; increasing the number of polling places and other voting options; and proactive, transparent communication with voters.”

This group was founded to ensure that our elections are safe from interference by the Russians and others. It has now expanded its efforts in view of COVID-19. I listened to a very interesting podcast by several of its members on Talking Feds, chaired by law professor and political commenter Harry Litman, in which one speaker observed that Secretaries of State in states throughout the country are gearing up for this massive task.

The brave Wisconsin voters have laser-focused our attention on the threat to our democracy.

I question whether anyone with an ounce of decency, regardless of party, could have remained unmoved by the sight of those loyal Americans standing on long lines to exercise their precious right to vote in the midst of this pandemic, forced to choose between voting and their health—and possibly lives—by outrageous and purely partisan decisions on the state and national levels by both legislators and the Courts, with the President as cheerleader.

To recap briefly: 

  • On April 6, Governor Tony Evers, a Democrat, sought to have the primary moved to June.
  • The Republican-dominated state legislature challenged his decision in the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which struck down the Governor’s action.
  • The US Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling reached remotely from their own safe spots, voted to reverse a lower court’s decision to extend the deadline for receipt of absentee ballots by just six days to ensure people could vote safely.

The Republican state legislature wanted to keep the vote low, believing it would help them reelect a conservative state court judge. President Trump agreed. He lobbied hard for the guy and against vote-by-mail, saying it “doesn’t work out well for Republicans.” 

It turned out that was the case in Wisconsin this year. Though both Democrats and Republicans expected a low turnout, especially in Democratic stronghold Milwaukee, where there were only 5 polling places open instead of the usual 18, Jill Karofsky, the liberal challenger, defeated Justice Daniel Kelly, the Trump-endorsed incumbent, by more than 160,000 votes. (Joe Biden also decisively defeated Bernie Sanders in what might have been bigger news under other circumstances.)

This Should Not Be a Partisan Issue

But despite President Trump’s claims—and his unjustified cries of fraud (which, as noted previously, study after study have shown is practically non-existent at this point—oh, wait, there was that North Carolina election fraud case by a Republican operative in 2019)—vote-by-mail doesn’t automatically benefit Democrats.

In fact, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—all of which Trump won in 2016—already allow their voters to vote by mail for any reason. 

A study published April 14, 2020, by the Democracy and Polarization Lab at Stanford University examined data from 1996-2018 and found no evidence that the roll-out of vote-by-mail in California, Utah, and Washington helped either party.

Vote-by-mail is already the primary method of voting in five states: Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Hawaii, and Utah. Former Governor and current Senate candidate John Hickenlooper of Colorado said they’ve seen a handful of fraudulent attempts in the millions of votes cast since its inception.

So facilitating vote-by-mail should be a non-partisan issue, but it isn’t. And since some believe that the number of people voting by mail may double in 2020 and account for one half the voting population, the systems state-by-state are really going to need help to protect the integrity of the electoral process. And the Post Office must be ready.

There Are So Many Facets to What Must Be Done. 

One Atlantic writer, Marc Elias, noted:

“Experience and past election results show that in order to prevent vote by mail from inadvertently disenfranchising voters, states must adopt four key safeguards:

(1) Postage must be free or prepaid by the government.

(2) Ballots postmarked on or before Election Day must count.

(3) Signature-matching laws need to be reformed to protect voters.

(4) Community organizations must be permitted to help collect and deliver voted, sealed ballots.

“We know that lack of pre-paid postage is an impediment to voting for many lower-income and young voters, and experts have found that requiring voters to have mail ballots received by Election Day, rather than simply post-marked by Election Day, has a disproportionate impact on minority voters. In 2016, a determination that a voter’s vote-by-mail signature failed to match the signature on file was the most common reason for rejecting a ballot. Finally, experience shows that laws that prevent community organizations from assisting voters with the collection and delivery of voted and sealed mail ballots disadvantage minority voters.”

Regardless of Party, We Should Want to Maximize American Voter Participation

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Aerial view of voters in line Scott Olson/Getty Images

Elias adds that because some voters, especially minority voters, strongly prefer to vote in person, they must be able to do so safely, with sufficient staffing by state agencies assisted by students. He foresees government workers being given overtime pay to do this, and high school and college kids receiving both payment and credit. In part, this effort will make up for the many elderly people who formed the bulwark of poll workers in the past.

Expanded curbside voting—in which voters drive up, get their ballot, and return it—without having to leave their cars, is now available in a number of states for disabled or elderly people. Elias and others recommend expanding it for everyone.

We have seen early voting being cut back in some states in an effort to disenfranchise voters. Elias recommends expanding it to include weekends, thereby reducing long lines and enabling those who want to vote in person but can’t get to the polls on Election Day to cast their ballots.

He recommends that “vote anywhere rules” be adopted by all states, so that a voter who appears at the wrong polling place may vote for the offices for which she or he would be eligible. This move, which some states already allow, would negate the need for provisional ballots that often aren’t counted.

And here’s a very interesting idea: states should create systems that enable a voter to reserve an off-peak hours time slot when they can vote, which would also reduce lines.

“The goal should be to avoid letting the rules dictate who wins based on whose voters can participate. Only by taking these steps can we be assured that the rules of the election won’t unfairly tilt the playing field.”

What You and I Can Do

In a recent visit to Twitter, where I am primarily a reader/lurker, I came across this tweet from a woman named Jo:

“Wisconsin is incredibly inspiring but no one should have to risk sickness or worse to vote. Be as patriotic as these fine folks and spend time today writing, tweeting, and calling your elected officials to support vote by mail and tell 12 of your nearest and dearest to do the same.”

I was so taken by the import of that simple tweet that I responded:

A sound and constructive plan that I should have thought of but didn’t. Thank you!

I have followed that advice, leaving messages with my senators and representative encouraging them to ensure that Congress allots the money needed by the states and the Post Office to make vote-by-mail viable in all 50 states by November. The Post Office support is an essential element. Apparently, President Trump has added the US Postal Service to his hit list.

It’s also crucial that Congress fund the other voting initiatives discussed above to secure safe in-person voting.

As I’m contacting my nearest and dearest, I’m adding you, dear readers, to my list. If at least twelve of you will deliver this message to your legislators—and, in turn, encourage twelve of your nearest/dearest to do the same—perhaps we can really make an impact. 

This is the most important election of our lifetimes. We’ve got a lot of hurdles ahead of us. Now’s the time to make our voices heard.

Are you with me?

Annie

Continue reading “A Call to Action: Let’s Honor the Wisconsin Voters and Protect Our Democracy!”

The President’s Daily Coronavirus Briefings: What Do You Think the Press Should Do?

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Image courtesy of flickr.com

There is no doubt that in the midst of this fearsome pandemic, the calm factual voice of a trustworthy leader is sorely needed. But what we are getting from this President are not the Fireside Chats that President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave to calm the nation. This President’s litany of falsehoods, which began on Day One when his hapless then-Communications Director lied about the size of the crowds, has ruled him out as that persona.

I am very frightened by his daily press briefings, which many have pointed out are his way of remaining in the limelight while his campaign rallies are on hold. Instead of Fireside Chats, we are getting State TV: with a captive audience.  This President holds “press briefings” that remind me of an autocrat’s taking over the means of communication to lull a willing public, eager for hope, that all will be well. In essence, he’s saying (I’m making no attempt to mimic his speech patterns here): 

Pay no attention to all the evidence that I have repeatedly failed as your leader in curbing this pandemic, first by destroying the pandemic preparedness office set up by the Obama administration, then by ignoring those who warned me the pandemic was coming, then by calling it fake news, then by saying it’s no worse than the flu and totally under control, and then by not listening to my scientific advisers’ pleas for social distancing. We lost precious time? Don’t believe it; that’s fake news. Trust me: It’s all gonna be fine.

Forget that I continue to fail, ignoring urgent requests from governors, forcing them into character-building bidding wars against each other and the federal government (FEMA) in a Wild West sellers’ market for life-saving equipment, refusing to call for a nationwide shelter-in-place. So what if I belittle and insult the governors who have requested federal help? I can even criticize the physicians and nurses who are in the front lines if I want to, accusing them of hoarding or selling their supplies. They’re greedy. They had enough supplies before the pandemic; why can’t they make do now? Look, somebody’s gotta be responsible, and it sure won’t be me.

For all these reasons and more, although he refuses to accept a pinky’s worth of responsibility as the deaths mount and the economy continues in free fall, Trump will be remembered in the history books as bearing huge responsibility for more loss of life and economic turmoil than any of us could imagine. In other words, as the worst president this country has ever seen. (See The Washington Post article about the “Denial and Dysfunction” that delayed a response for 70 Days.)

But he insists on appearing before us nightly, not practicing social distancing from those who share the crowded podium with him. Look at me, he says. Listen to me. Buy my snake oil.

Former Vice President Joe Biden had a virtual Town Hall Sunday night to talk about the pandemic. Did you see it? I didn’t. It was streamed on his website, but I can’t find a video. Doesn’t the apparent Democratic nominee for the Presidency deserve a bit more attention from the press at this point? 

I can’t bear to watch much of Trump’s briefings, but I am eager to hear what Dr. Anthony Fauci, the highly respected Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has to say when he’s allowed to speak. Asked if the Administration had the outbreak under control, Fauci said:

 “I will not say we have it under control…That would be a false statement…we are struggling.” 

Sunday night (at the same time that Biden was appearing), Trump again spoke about the wonders of hydroxychloroquine, a drug designed to treat malaria and rheumatic diseases such as lupus, as though it was the answer to this pandemic and would save the lives of the dying. He had been advised against doing so by Fauci and his colleague, Dr. Deborah Birx, but he insisted there was no time to test it—it had to be out there. When a reporter asked Fauci if he agreed, Trump refused to let him answer.

According to a tweet from Andrew Freedman, a climate reporter for The Washington Post,

“This is a really chilling moment from a science standpoint, with Trump having just pushed an unproven COVID treatment and Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the U.S., getting muzzled on live TV. Was clear Trump didn’t want to be contradicted.” (emphases mine throughout)

I hasten to note here that I believe CNN correspondent Chris Cuomo was wise and correct when he encouraged reporters not to “politicize” Fauci by asking him questions in front of the President that would necessitate a contradiction. We need Fauci.

But look what this debate says about where we are in this country: reporters would have to censor themselves from asking questions that will provide much-needed scientific information to avoid embarrassing the President.

Fauci had said Sunday morning, on the “Face the Nation” TV program, that “in terms of science, I don’t think we could definitively say” this drug works for coronavirus. He had reportedly had a heated discussion with non-scientist Peter Navarro, Trump’s Director of Trade and Manufacturing, who had said there was “clear scientific evidence of the drug’s efficacy.

Fauci, who has a worldwide reputation dating back to his work during the AIDS epidemic, had said there was only anecdotal evidence. Trump obviously chose the non-scientist’s opinion over the scientist’s.

During Sunday’s briefing, Trump insisted that the drug is completely safe, with no side effects. But Megan L. Ranney, an emergency physician at Brown University, told a New York Times reporter that she’d never seen “an elected official advertise a ‘miracle cure’ the way Mr. Trump has done.” 

“There are side effects to hydroxychloroquine. It causes psychiatric symptoms, cardiac problems and a host of other bad side effects.”

When it is prescribed, it is used very cautiously. 

Some hospitals have been using it out of desperation. According to Dr. Adhi Shara, chief medical officer at the Mount Sinai South Nassau County branch of Mount Sinai Health Systems in Long Island, New York, they’ve been using hydroxychloroquine and the antibiotic azithromycin (which Trump also touts) “pretty much since day one.”

The results have been mixed, he told The New York Times.

“We’ve been throwing the kitchen sink at these patients. I can’t tell whether someone got better on their own or because of the medication.”

It is truly bizarre the extent to which the President has latched onto this alleged “miracle cure.” The Guardian has an excellent article describing the events leading up to the drug’s receiving the White House seal of approval. It’s worth reading the full article, but here’s an excerpt.

“The story of how hydroxychloroquine was anointed the Trump administration’s miracle drug for the coronavirus pandemic is a distinctly modern tale of misinformation within a global information ecosystem beset by widespread uncertainty, fear, media fragmentation and hyper-partisanship.

“Belief in the drug’s potential to cure patients infected with the virus followed an extraordinary trajectory from a small [and now acknowledged as highly flawed, not double-blinded or randomized controlled] study conducted in France (Trump’s “very good test”) to Silicon Valley social media influencers, Fox News, and the largest bully pulpit: the White House.

“But it’s also a story as old as medicine itself. When an epidemic killed thousands in ancient Rome, said Aaron Shakow, a research associate at Harvard Medical School and historian of medicine, the chief physician of the emperor Nero circulated a recipe for an old miracle cure.

“‘It was an attempt by Nero to sustain his legitimacy in the midst of this catastrophic event,’ Shakow said. ‘Epidemics are dangerous to rulers.’”

One can picture Trump, as the death toll exceeds projections, claiming that if only everyone had listened to him and taken this “safe” drug, hundreds of thousands of lives could have been saved.

And, not surprisingly, he also has a small financial interest in Sanofi, the drug company that makes a brand name version of this medication. Its patent has expired. Am I being too cynical to anticipate an effort to renew the patent due to the alleged urgent need?  Others around him also have financial interests in Sanofi, including one of his major donors.

Also not surprisingly, there are now shortages of the drug for lupus and rheumatoid arthritis patients, as well as for those stricken by malaria. These patients are suffering, and I don’t think it’s a stretch to imagine that malaria patients may well die due to sudden redirections to the US of a drug that is effective for that disease, but not proven effective for COVID-19.

This is just one example of the perverse nature of Trump’s acting as spokesperson. 

The spread of such dangerous misinformation in real time has created a dilemma for news people. Forbes asked:

“At what point does taking the government’s daily coronavirus briefing become malpractice on the part of broadcasters? If experience tells us that day after day the President of the United States makes false or misleading statements about the pandemic that has shut down huge parts of America and forced millions to shelter in their homes, is returning the next day to air the next episode a rational decision—since it’s tradition to hear what the leader of the free world has to say?”

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, the subject of the article, says it is not a rational decision:

“I would stop putting those briefings on TV. Not out of spite, but because it’s misinformation. We should stop broadcasting it, honestly, because it’s gonna cost lives.” 

Some have said the mainstream networks should air only fact-checked, edited recaps. Others say, and do, air just a portion and then cut away and summarize the rest. Still others point out that since the news media’s own credibility has been questioned (in good measure, due to Trump’s “fake news” campaign), setting a separate set of rules for covering him would simply deepen the mistrust.

And this thoughtful view comes from Jack Schafer in Politico:

“The un-coverists greatest fear isn’t that Trump will lie or that Trump’s lies will somehow deceive them. What they worry about the most is that the average viewer will be sucked in by Trump’s lies. This paternalistic mindset holds that the same individual who can be trusted to vote in elections can’t be trusted on his own to listen to long, unbroken statements from the president. He must be guided and protected by volunteer censors. However well-meaning the un-coverists are, I find their efforts more troubling than I do Trump’s lies.”

I find this a very difficult and vexing decision—for both the newscasters and for us, the viewers.

The President is using these briefings to assuage his ego and campaign for reelection—as well as to continue to attack (and fire) the public servants and others who’ve blown the whistle on him or whom he views as personal threats for any reason. 

He is endangering us with his falsehoods and diverting us from the other harms he’s doing. (This just in: he’s fired the overseer of his administration’s handling of the $2 trillion relief package Congress just passed.) Nevertheless, he is the President. 

How do you think the news media—including White House correspondents in that small briefing room who are actually jeopardizing their own health—should handle these made-for-TV events?

And I hope we can extend this discussion to my fellow bloggers in other countries: Do you feel your leaders are over-reaching and taking advantage of the pandemic? What is happening there with regard to press coverage—and how is the public reacting? And what are your thoughts about what’s happening/should happen in the US?

Annie

CORONAVIRUS STIMULUS RELIEF PACKAGE(S): A Questioning Acrostic

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Image courtesy of health.mil.

Catastrophic delays
Of equipment for patients and carers
Reveal huge flaws in America’s design.
One thing I do
Not hear discussed
Applies to the “have nots’”
Vying for their tiny share of
Income from the supposed stimulus:
Registering their presence without
Use of computers and Internet?
Shadowy reminders of those we forget.

Small businesses
Tethered lightly to viability
In line for loans
Must wait months to see $$
Urgently needed, as
Life savings go out padlocked doors
Unless some Cuomo-esque souls
Snip through the bureaucracy…

Relying on small amounts,
Each home health aide, waiter,
Likely most in gig economy, live
In fear of dislocation,
Eviction, illness, as the
Fat big business cats purr in delight.

Phase 4 bill? The Dems want more $$ to
Aid states/locals still fighting virus,
Care via family/medical leave,
Keep first responders safe,
Add to Fed food aid,
Gird pensions for stability,
Extend more checks to meet great need.
(See below…)

_________________

The three bills were bipartisan, a remarkable accomplishment at this time that meant both sides compromised. To date, the Republicans say no more stimulus is needed–except Lisa Murkowski, who wisely notes that serious mental health needs arising from the pandemic will have to be addressed.

The Democrats improved the Republicans’ bill, but said they’d be back for more. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the first two bills were for emergency relief; the third for mitigation. The fourth will be for recovery.

In this fourth bill, the Democrats will plead for all in Phase 4 above, plus virus-revealed issues: money for Internet services, now a necessity; money for states and the Post Office for vote-by-mail to ensure our democratic processes can continue despite the pandemic.

(Will the President sign this bill? Speaking of the previous bill’s funding request for vote-by-mail, which is expected to enable more Americans to vote, he stated:
“The things they had in there were crazy…that if you ever agreed to, you would never have a Republican elected in this country again.”)

Two parties; two different wish lists.

For Phase 4 to pass, We, the People, must loudly say we agree. Do you? Will you?

Annie

Continue reading “CORONAVIRUS STIMULUS RELIEF PACKAGE(S): A Questioning Acrostic”

How Bernie Sanders Can Rise From Politician to Statesman

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Photo courtesy of en.wikipedia.org.

Republican Governor Mike DeWine of Ohio defied a state Supreme Court decision and cancelled his state’s primary election on March 17, citing “health concerns.” Ohio Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown, whom I greatly respect, said he’s been working with DeWine, knows him well, and is confident that his decision was based on the right reason: the desire to protect the health and safety of the people of his state.

So although there’s plenty of political shenanigans around, the Ohio primary cancellation doesn’t seem to have been one of them. That’s the good part.

The bad part is that DeWine’s decision sets a dangerous precedent—as historian Michael Beschloss confirmed on Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC show. When we get into the business of cancelling elections, we’re entering new territory fraught with negative implications for our democracy, which has been suffering mightily in the past several years.

The coronavirus has demonstrated that we are all interconnected and interdependent: We’ll have to work together to get through this pandemic that is threatening us now—and to deal with the unprecedented dilemmas it is posing.

Based on nearly all sources, who now include a recalcitrant President Trump (!), the pandemic will surely worsen over the next several months. Louisiana and Georgia have already postponed their primaries. It seems to be time to consider how important the remaining primaries are to our democratic process.

There is only one person who should make that decision: Bernie Sanders. 

As of March 18, he faces a nearly insurmountable delegate deficit. Former Vice President Joe Biden has won 1165 delegates; Sanders’ tally is 880. The odds of his success are slim to none. After losing the primaries in Illinois, Florida, and Arizona by large percentages, Bernie is now “reassessing his campaign,” according to current reports. 

If he decides that it is irresponsible to continue seeking delegates through the primaries because people’s lives will be at risk going to vote in primaries that won’t change the outcome—and suspends his campaign—he will be demonstrating a degree of reality-based unselfishness that will earn him a solid place in history. 

In contrast, if he continues to campaign in whatever way he can, he will divert Biden from focusing his sole attention on President Trump’s massive failures, delay whatever reconciliation is possible between his supporters and Biden, and increase the chances that the most inept and harmful president ever may somehow win another four years. 

Bernie’s place in history may then be as the spoiler who increased the possibilities of our democracy failing. I’m sure that is not the legacy he wishes. He has committed to voting for and campaigning for Biden, stating that defeating President Trump is the most important issue.

He can still play an active role in pursuing his ideas and ideals; he has already moved Biden to the left on education. But I hope he realizes that the primaries—and Biden’s increasingly large victories—have demonstrated that this is a center-left country.

Based on all the votes cast in the primaries to date, it’s now time for the battle of ideas among Democrats to cease in order to form a cohesive strategy to defeat Trump, hold the House, and retake the Senate.

Biden recognizes where he must be to forge what has so far been a winning coalition. If Bernie pushes too far, he risks validating those among his supporters who will refuse to vote for Biden because they view him as too much a part of the “corrupt establishment.”

I hope, therefore, that Bernie will soon announce the suspension of his campaign and devote his energies to ensuring that the Senate passes substantive legislation that will provide immediate and ongoing assistance to Americans in need due to the impact of the coronavirus. 

And I hope that along the way, he will be able to convince many (most?) of his supporters that their vote for the man he calls “my friend Joe” is right and necessary. 

We have Republicans in the Senate today sounding like Socialists (shhhhhh!), saying they’re ready to send dollars to the public. 

We have a public that, after decades of accepting the Republicans’ fraying of the safety net, finally realizes due to the absence of good management and wise decision-making how very important the federal government is. 

(With regard to the above point, I urge you to read this extremely important article in the Washington Post by Stuart Stevens, a now contrite Republican consultant, on the damage his party has wreaked on this nation, leading inevitably to our current crisis.) 

In the midst of the horror we’re experiencing, if Bernie now declares he’ll no longer participate in the primaries, he can take pride in the role he’s played in changing people’s views. He just hasn’t succeeded to the point that they’re ready for his revolution.

Annie