On Sunday, initially at least, there was no White House briefing on the president’s public schedule. But the bad news kept coming. Coronavirus deaths continued to climb and reports of the heartland being unprepared for what may be on its horizon continued to ricochet around the media.
In the words of one administration insider, to the Guardian: “The Trump organism is simply collapsing. He’s killing his own supporters.”
Members of the national guard, emergency workers, rank-and-file Americans: all are exposed. Yet Trump appears incapable of emoting anything that comes close to heart-felt concern. Or just providing straight answers.
Rather, he is acting like Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederate States of America: repeatedly letting governors know the burden of shoring up their sick, their doctors and their people falls on their shoulders first. The national government? It’s the world’s greatest backstop.
Remember when the Republican party freaked out about Barack Obama and the US “leading from behind” abroad? Remember the howls that evoked from GOP leaders? Those days are gone. Welcome to what Martin O’Malley, a Democratic former governor of Maryland, calls the “Darwinian approach to federalism”.
Trump is telling NFL owners he wants the season to start on time. He is disregarding Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advice on wearing facemasks in public. And he is touting untested coronavirus cures live on national TV.
Think Trump University on steroids, only this time we all stand to be the victims.
When Dr Anthony Fauci says there is no evidence to back up Trump’s claims surrounding hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug, pay attention. The fact Jared Kushner is on the case is hardly reassuring. He’s the guy who thought firing James Comey was win-win politics and promised Middle East peace in our time.
While all this is going on, the Wisconsin Republican party is giving America a taste of the campaign to come in the fall. Right now, the Badger State GOP is fighting in the US supreme court efforts to extend mail-in voting for this Tuesday’s Democratic primary.
In other words, voters will be forced to choose between foregoing their rights and risking their lives. Democracy shouldn’t work that way.
Back in the day, Republicans looked upon absentee voting as a valuable adjunct, a key piece in the party’s election day arsenal. Not anymore. Instead it is a dreaded foe, a fact readily admitted by Trump on Fox & Friends this week. If the US were to adopt mail-in voting, said the president, “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again”.
For good measure, Trump later declared from the White House: “I think a lot of people cheat with mail-in voting.”
There is nothing like populism marinated in wholesale contempt for the populace. In case Trump and the Republicans forgot, “We the People” are the constitution’s first three words.
Sadly, once again we are reminded that Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe’s masterpiece, Gladiator, is the movie for this presidency and its tumultuous times. In one scene, a senator, Gracchus, attempts to confront Commodus, the emperor, about a plague spreading through Rome. The emperor declines, threatens the senator and muses about disbanding the Senate.
On Thursday, Trump forced the removal of Captain Brett Crozier from his command of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, for having the temerity to plead his sailors’ case as more than 100 of them tested positive for coronavirus.
If you can leave your soldiers to suffer then no American is truly safe, no matter what Jeanine Pirro may say. Crozier left the ship to the cheers of the crew – then reportedly tested positive himself.
Hours after dismissing Crozier, Trump sacked Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community’s inspector general, for simply doing his job. Trump’s Ukraine call was never perfect, however many times he says it was.
Hail Caesar, indeed.
Whether Trump wins reelection is an open question. For now, the economy is cratering and the coronavirus death toll has exploded. Not a promising combination. Herbert Hoover faced a depression, not a plague. Trump may contend with both.
According to Chris Christie, a former New Jersey governor and the man who sent Charlie Kushner, Jared’s father, to prison, November will be a referendum on Trump. Joe Biden is nearly irrelevant.
For the moment, Trump holds a commanding lead among Republicans. Seven months from now, we will learn if party loyalty is enough to secure a second term.
America faces an epic choice…
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