Trump The Whistleblower

In February, as we now know, President Trump was well awareof the imminent, lethal coronavirus pandemic. “This is deadly stuff” is hardly a dismissive take. But he didn’t want to sound counterproductively alarmist and dire. At a gut level, we get it. He played it down, because he didn’t “want to create a panic.” We get that non-panic part too. It’s part of a president’s uniquely protective purview when an ominous threat happens on his watch.

Then it’s up to the president to act, well, presidential. Think FDR. (Hell, think of a bullhorned George W. Bush in the ashes of the World Trade Center.) The danger is real, but a presidential president can still meaningfully mitigate deadly impact—by reassuring and preparing. It’s not an Apprentice moment. But saying it would “disappear”–not unlike a familiar flu–with the changing of the seasons was a lie. Thus, a misinformed and misguided public was unnecessarily—and negligently—much more vulnerable than it would ever have been. The U.S. death rate would not now be heading toward 200,000 if America had had a leader—not a misleader—during perilous times. It wasn’t political hyperbole for Joe Biden to label it a “life-and-death betrayal of the American people.”

So, this president, who has tested negative for empathy and was likely consumed with stock mark implications for his re-election messaging, dawdled on testing and contact tracing; failed to execute an effective plan for securing protective equipment; and went out of his high-profile-optics way to disparage mask-wearing and social distancing. He failed flagrantly on what would be any president’s ultimate responsibility: protecting the American people. Ironically–and hypocritically–Trump has had no qualms about stoking fear—if not panic—in the white suburbs with his law-and-order, “American carnage” warnings about invading hordes of “anarchists, agitators, looters.”

Then there’s this: Why talk, via 18 on-the-record, recorded conversations, with Bob Woodward—THAT Bob Woodward—who was writing a book on the Trump presidency? Because that’s what a pathological narcissist, who really thinks he can charm anyone–especially a celebrated, iconic author–does. “It actually reflects how deeply insecure he is about his own self-worth,” assessed Trump biographer Tim O’Brien. All of the president’s minions, of course, could never have prevented the fiasco-in-the-making. And Trump became, ironically, his own whistleblower.     

Trumpster Diving

“A Republic, if you can keep it.”

  • White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: “The president has never lied to the American public.” Isn’t that a hoax?
  • “Keep calm and carry on” is associated with Winston Churchill’s iconic leadership during the World War II German bombing of England. It has now been blasphemously inserted into the opportunistic Trump playbook. “That’s what I did,” claimed the revisionist-in-chief at a cult rally. Kayleigh McEnany, Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson and Lou Dobbs would agree.
  • Richard Nixon and Al Gore, however different in blatantly obvious ways, share an experience that should remain a democratic rule-of-thumb. After losing closely contested–and understandably controversial–races for the presidency, they both ultimately decided it was better to stand down and accept the results–rather than pursue a course that would likely tear the country apart. That was then. This is not.
  • “Your Excellency.” That’s how Trump was addressed in correspondence by North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un—not by Attorney General William Barr.
  • “Yesper.” How Trump recently referenced his(third) Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who he ironically wishes were much more of an actual “yes man.” Look for Esper, who wasn’t on board with federalizing troops over civil unrest but was on board with renaming military installations–to be replaced soon after the election, if not sooner.
  • Donald Trump and his campaign have made it a priority to demean Joe Biden’s health—as in “somebody who truly has lost a step.” Heads up on the pushback step. That self-serving campaign assertion only pales in comparison to an unscrupulous, uninformed, ill-advised, under-performing, overweight, unhinged, pathologically compromised, climate change-denying incumbent who has lost whatever remnant remained of a moral compass.
  • “As I’ve been saying since the beginning, Trump was a mobster, plain and simple.” That was Michael Cohen, former personal lawyer and erstwhile “fixer” for Donald Trump. “As a rule, Trump expressed low opinions of all black folks, from music to culture and politics.” Another unflattering Cohen quote from his book, “Disloyal: A Memoir.”
  • “Michael Cohen is a disgraced felon and disbarred lawyer who lied to Congress. He has lost all credibility, and it’s unsurprising to see his latest attempt to profit off of lies.” That was dismissive White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, who’s familiar with Trump-agenda prevarication and using a Trump-provided forum for career enhancement.
  • Speaking of publication profiting, Sarah Huckabee Sanders now has a book out, “Speaking for Myself.” While she was an annoying, enabling avatar of fealty who was regularly parodied on “Saturday Night Live,” she will be best remembered for being the first WH press secretary to receive Secret Service protection. Well earned.
  • For what it’s worth, including to formerly conservative Republicans, the U.S. national debt$26 trillion–is now greater than GDP. Tea Party on, GOPsters.
  • It’s not just Vlad Putin who’s consumed with the American election from afar. It’s no secret that NATO allies fear the worst if Trump is re-elected, and the U.S. makes good on his Putin-pleasing threat to exit the 71-year-old alliance. It would mean a seismic shift away from America’s role as a leader and protector of the continent. 
  • Ignoble Prize. Trump engaged in another celebratory, tweet storm over his nomination for the Noble Peace Prize. True, but context still matters outside the White House. First of all, any national lawmaker can nominate anyone for the Nobel Peace Prize. To date, there are more than 300 candidates put forward for the 2020 Prize. Trump’s nomination was by a far-right Norwegian politician for his brokered deal between Israel and the UAE. For the record, Adolph Hitler was also nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize–in 1939–by a notably sardonic, anti-fascist member of the Swedish parliament.
  • As a cost-cutting measure, the Trump campaign decided not to spend $3 million for a NASCAR car featuring Trump’s name. Pennzoil never looked so classy.
  • So Sen. Ted Cruz makes Trump’s Supreme Court short list. It’s called pandering to a former rival’s ego and base—while hoping nobody still cares about Trump insulting Cruz’s wife and alleging that his father was somehow involved in the Kennedy assassination. Another day at the orifice.
  • Trump Time Machine: “Didn’t need no welfare state … Girls were girls and men were men. … I don’t know just what went wrong. Those were the days.” That was from “All in the Family” that debuted in 1971. And, yes, the Bunker is back.

COVID Bits

#AloneTogether

  • “The reason we’re investing not in one but six different vaccines is because of the expectation that they won’t all work.”—NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins, after AstraZeneca’s suspension of final testing of its potential COVID-19 vaccine.
  • “By the time you mobilize the distribution of the vaccine and get a majority or more of the population vaccinated and protected, that’s likely not going to happen until the end of 2021.”—Dr. Anthony Fauci, America’s top infectious disease expert.
  • Amtrak will soon be furloughing more than 2,000 workers because of a sharp decline in ridership and revenue caused by the pandemic. That’s nearly 10 percent of Amtrak’s work force.
  • Used car sales: Now on the rise as consumers need options to avoid using buses, trains and Ubers during a pandemic.
  • Plane truth: Airports are much more problematic than airplanes.
  • 2,900: approximate number of people hospitalized with a primary diagnosis of the coronavirus across Florida—including approximately 500 in the Tampa Bay area.
  • Amazon will hire another 100,000 workers—again underscoring the massive shifts to online retailers.
  • 26: The number of early-voting locations in Hillsborough County after Raymond James Stadium was added. Amalie Arena is also a site. Early voting begins Oct. 19.
  • Demand for (free) coronavirus testing in Hillsborough County has dropped to an average of about 20,000 tests per week. The county’s sites are operating at about 20 percent capacity.
  • “It’s no time to talk about where we used to be. The pandemic is still raging.”—Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp.

Dem Notes

“Yes, we can.”

  • “Trump lied and people died.” Now a bottom-line Democratic theme—brutal, but not a lie.
  • “More cops have died from COVID this year than have been killed on patrol.” Joe Biden weighing in with public health/law-and-order context.
  • $100 million: What Michael Bloomberg is committing to the Biden Florida campaign. Among the foremost, micro-targeted priorities: boosting Spanish language advertising in key markets.
  • American University historian Allan Lichtman, known for his “Keys to the White House” model, has accurately predicted the outcome of every presidential election since 1984, including 2016–sometimes defying the conventional wisdom of pundits and pollsters. For 2020, he predicts a Biden victory.
  • Too bad that “socialism” too often resonates more than “authoritarianism” with Cuban-American voters.
  • The CHIRLA (Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights) Action Fund and its Immigrant Power PAC announced their first-ever endorsement in a presidential election, throwing support behind the Biden-Harris ticket. “We chose decency over mean-spiritedness, inclusiveness over racism, democracy over plutocracy,” noted CHIRLA President Angelica Salas. Todo ayuda.

Riverwalk Synergy

The high-profile capstone of downtown revitalization is the Riverwalk. Now there is real “there there,” to paraphrase Gertrude Stein. It’s great for visitors and locals as well as tourism ads and media priorities for those covering a Tampa event. But the revitalization agenda is more than a downtown upgrade for hipsters and cool ESPN optics. West bank and West Tampa revitalization matter, and the Riverwalk ripples are real. And now, thanks to a $24 million federal transportation grant, even closer mobility and economic links loom. Riverwalk synergy can literally pave the way for more green space, affordable housing and sustainable living. The project will pay for 12 miles of contiguous multi-modal paths connecting the University of Tampa, West Tampa, Tampa Heights, Bayshore, Hyde Park and Ybor City. It will include under bridge/over water segments, new pavements, guard rails, lighting, landscaping and repaired seawalls.

It’s also a reminder that such grants are not just “pork.” They can impact diverse lives for the better. They can also be one of those all-too-rare occasions when across-the-aisle political cooperation can occur—because it’s win-win. This $24 million grant–an acknowledgement that infrastructure need not be a partisan political issue–was a joint effort of Democratic Congresswoman Kathy Castor and Republican Senators Marco Rubio and, yes, Rick Scott.

Media Matters

  • “With all due respect, it’s time to start asking what your country can do for you.” That was Sen. Ed Markey, 74, the Massachusetts Democrat who successfully fought off a primary challenge from 39-year-old Rep. Joe Kennedy—a rising star of scion fame. This was how Markey’s ultimate campaign ad ended: A working-class hero playing–not without obvious risk–to a new generation’s political expectations in the land of Kennedy lore. 
  • Mark (Zuckerberg’s) influence is staggering, far beyond that of anyone else in the private sector or in government. … Mark alone can decide how to configure Facebook’s algorithms to determine what people see in their News Feeds, what privacy settings they can use and even which messages get delivered. He sets the rules for how to distinguish violent and incendiary speech from the merely offensive.”—No, that wasn’t a pundit or a politician, but a better-informed insider. That was Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, who at a gut level likely knows that Facebook, no democratic bulwark, is more of a monetized Faustian deal than America’s zeitgeist.

Sports Shorts

  • U.S. Open: What with no spectators, microphones pick up much more sound around the players themselves. Grunting is louder, for sure. But in the semi-final match between Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka, it also made an Azarenka F-bomb audible–as the commentators diplomatically acknowledged.
  • “We’ve got a lot of things to correct.”That wasBucs coach Bruce Arians after the disappointing Saints loss. Tom Brady would agree—and that corrections damn well better be evident against Carolina.

Quoteworthy

  • “Very concerned about announcements from the British government on its intentions to breach the Withdrawal Agreement. This would break international law and undermines trust.”—European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, in response to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s threat to override elements of the painfully negotiated Brexit deal.
  • “Trump has become a savior figure, a sort of great redeemer for the German far right.”—Miro Dittrich, a far-right extremist expert at the Berlin-based Amadeu-Antonio-Foundation.
  • “The last four years have revealed the fragility of our democratic institutions and our overreliance on norms rather than enforceable law. If American democracy is to endure, we need to strip a future demagogue of the power to abuse the presidency.”—Susan E. Rice, former national security adviser under President Barack Obama.
  • “These are near perfect conditions for a proto-fascist like Trump who seeks a disoriented populace.”—Roger Cohen, New York Times.
  • “I think the fact that (Trump) didn’t go out and scream, ‘We’re all going to die,’ is more than okay.”—South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham.
  • “President Donald Trump is running the most openly racist campaign since George Wallace in 1968—a repellent ploy that will damage the nation even if he loses.”—Eugene Robinson, Washington Post.
  • “From Day 1, C.I.A. officers are drilled on the nonpartisan nature of their mission. There is no greater sin than politicization of intelligence.”—John Sipher, former chief of station for the C.I.A.
  • “Trump covets the power of murderous dictators such as Mohammed bin Salman, Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un, who use their countries’ resources as their own and answer to no one. All Trump needs is a close election he can contest.”—Ann McFeathers, Tribune News Service.
  • “Never underestimate Congress’ ability to ratchet up an investigation 60 days out from a presidential election.”—White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, in response to House Democrats saying they would investigate whether Postmaster General Louis DeJoy encouraged employees at his former business to contribute to Republican candidates and then reimbursed them in the guise of bonuses—a violation of campaign finance laws.
  • “We only knew one speed and one direction: Sell the fear.”—Joshua L. Powell, former chief of staff to NRA leader Wayne LaPierre.
  • “(The recent Dow drop of 800 points) showed investors that tech stocks and growth stocks can fall just as easily as they rise.”—Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA Research and the author of “The Seven Rules of Wall Street.”
  • “Joe Biden stands with unions, and he knows that American workers and working families must be treated as essential at all times, not just times of crisis. Florida’s working people can count on Joe.”—Mike Williams, Florida AFL-CIO president.
  • “No one is fooled by an executive order that can be rescinded at any time.”—Congresswoman Kathy Castor, on President Trump’s announcement of an extension of the moratorium on new offshore oil drilling in much of the Eastern Gulf of Mexico.
  • “Every young person deserves a chance to change their past and move in the right direction without having to face long-term consequences.”—Sheriff Chad Chronister, on further expansion of the county’s Juvenile Arrest Avoidance Program.

Biden On The Offensive; Trump Still Offensive

 “A Republic, if you can keep it.”

  • “Women for Trump”: Among those on its advisory board: Becki Falwell, wife of Jerry Falwell Jr., the, uh, disgraced Liberty U president. Mrs. Falwell has even appeared in a campaign video promoting traditional family values.
  • What’s next? “Pool Boys for Trump”?
  • Stop and start: Upon further reflection, Donald Trump bordered on the perversely prescient during his inaugural speech. He almost said, “This American carnage starts right here and starts right now.” Out of the mouth of knaves.
  • Imagine a law-and-order president with so many criminal connections: Eight (so far) Trump associates have already pleaded guilty or been convicted of crimes.
  • Trump has had legal issues throughout the life of his brand—from bankruptcies and income taxes to porn-actress pay offs, Hatch Act scenarios and an impeachment trial. But the prosecutor, literally, he likely fears most is Kamala Harris. 
  • The Trump campaign has referenced Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as a “Trojan horse” for Fidel Castro-style authoritarianism. And this on behalf of a candidate right out of a Benito Mussolini casting call.
  • “Nobody outside of the beltway really cares.”—That was White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, on how Hatch Act conflicts—as in political manipulation of government—are perceived within the administration.
  • According to the Center for Strategic & International Studies,Right-wing extremists perpetrated two-thirds of the attacks and plots in the United States in 2019 and over 90 percent between January 1 and May 8, 2020.” Context still matters.
  • “Could not be more wrong.”—How HUD secretary Ben Carson, the only black member of Trump’s cabinet, characterized those who called the president a racist.
  • “I’ve been, frankly, more than a bit surprised by how accommodating and acquiescent he’s been.” That was former Republican Pennsylvania Congressman Charlie Dent, referring to evangelical sell-out Vice President Mike Pence.
  • In 2012, who would have predicted that the 2016 Republican ticket would include Donald Trump? So, literally nothing’s off the table anymore, especially for a party that knows it’s still demographically challenged. Which means a 2024 ticket of former UN Ambassador and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Sen. Tim Scott, the African-American senator from South Carolina, could seem downright viable. It would certainly carry South Carolina.

COVID Bits

#AloneTogether

  • Russia has now joined the U.S., India and Brazil with more than 1 million confirmed COVID-19 cases.
  • India recently recorded a global record 91,000 infections for a single day. The previous record was 77,638 in July in the U.S.
  • The German COVID death rate is one forty-eighth that of the United States. Maybe it helps to have a scientist, in this case Angela Merkel, in charge.
  • “The Trump administration is responsible for the single worst public health failure in the last 100 years.”—Peter J. Hotez, global health expert and dean at the Baylor College of Medicine.
  • African-Americans ages 65 to 74 died of COVID-19 five times as often as whites.
  • North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Arkansas, Missouri, Indiana and Illinois: states that are “at risk for surging,” according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease.
  • 8.4 percent: U.S. unemployment rate in August. 10.2 percent: Unemployment rate in July.
  • “We hear the pain and concerns of our neighbors and are acting to bring much-needed solutions to bolster this bedrock economic engine for Florida and the nation.”—Congresswoman Kathy Castor, who recently introduced H.R. 8122—the bipartisan Protecting Tourism in the United States Act (with Michigan Republican Rep. Fred Upton) that directs the Department of Commerce to study the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the travel and tourism industry.
  • 3,400: People across Florida who are hospitalized with a primary diagnosis of the coronavirus. 520: Those hospitalized in the Tampa Bay area.
  • 25: Number of early voting sites in Hillsborough County—including Amalie Arena.
  • “If there is a safe and effective vaccine, I think that the most vulnerable population should have priority.”—Gov. Ron DeSantis.
  • “Is the state coming to us because they want everyone to be safe, or are they coming to the black community because they want them to be your lab rats? That’s the message that is out there on social media.”—Black Democratic State Rep. Shevrin Jones, one of four legislators who have been diagnosed with COVID-19.