Trump Unmasked, Biden Explained

 “A Republic, if you can keep it.”

* “Our country was not meant to be shut down.” Or shut up.

* Vanity and ventilators. So, President Donald Trump goes to the Ford Motor Company’s repurposed factory in Michigan, which now makes ventilators, in order to be seen as doing and saying, well, something in the critical swing state of Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. It was the day after he had vilified Whitmer and the state with false claims of voter fraud.

What he was heard saying in the Ypsilanti plant was that he couldn’t wait for the country to reopen for business and Trump rallies–and also worked in a reference to “200 beautiful new miles of border wall.” And what he was seen doing was defying plant guidelines by preening about without a mask. Trump doesn’t like the optics, and his ego won’t permit public masking, even as his inability to lead during a crisis has long been unmasked.

The political upshot from the state where most polls have Trump trailing Biden: “He’s going to be asked not to return to any enclosed facilities inside our state,” announced Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.

* Bully pulpit update: The tumult over Trump taking hydroxychloroquine is certainly warranted–but not because it could put the health of the charlatan-in-chief in jeopardy. It’s because it necessarily sends a message to fellow Americans, especially those who channel this president, that an unproven malaria drug could be worth trying–potential fatal side effects notwithstanding. 

*The  Senate approved the confirmation of Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, as next director of national intelligence. His confirmation passed 49-44. For the record, that’s more “no” votes than any other DNI nominee. Maybe it’s because he was blatantly unqualified. When Congress created the DNI position two decades ago, it was with the expectation that directors would be nonpartisan national security experts. With Ratcliffe, they get a Texas congressman known for Trump loyalty whose best credential is that he has been a member of the House Intelligence Committee for a year.

* It’s beyond ironic–and hypocritical–that Trump, the embodiment of immorality, has hectored hard for churches to reopen. Perhaps he will double down to keep his appeal to evangelicals by showing up–sans mask–at a service and passing out collection plates, sharing a prayer book and joining in congregant singing and chanting.

* For the first time in more than two months, Trump was able to play some golf–at the Trump National Golf Club in suburban Virginia. No mention of whether his caddy was Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham or William Barr.

* Not that anyone’s nostalgic, but there’s a post-Cold War arms races going on. Who would have thought the “new normal” would include a competition in hypersonic (speeds in excess of Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound) weapons among the U.S., Russia and China. “Our ultimate goal is, simply, we want to dominate future battlefields,” said Mark Lewis, the Pentagon’s director of defense research and engineering for modernization. As for the commander-in-chief: “I call it the super-duper missile.” Whatever.

* Trump continues to heap scorn on the practice of voting by mail with his unproven and unprovable accusations of fraud. Presumably, that doesn’t include his While House mail-in to his “home state” of Florida.

* Political karma update: “Alabama, do not trust (Senate candidate) Jeff Sessions. He let our country down.”

Biden’s Pertinent Point

A critical rule of political expediency is candidates remembering that there are things better left unsaid publicly or said by designated surrogates. Most recent Exhibit A: Joe Biden and that “ain’t black” remark. And that’s too bad, because we know what Biden meant–and so does everyone else.

“If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or for Trump then you ain’t black,” wryly noted Biden on “The Breakfast Club,” a black-popular, syndicated morning radio show that airs on more than 100 stations nationwide. It’s a go-to stop for candidates courting black voters. He cut to the pragmatic- and -ideological chase and underscored the obvious. He wasn’t being literal–or taking the black vote for granted. Fortunately he didn’t reference “Uncle Toms.”

He wasn’t positioning himself as the arbiter of blackness. He was being brutally honest about a presidential showdown that is hardly a Hobson’s choice. Trump’s racist track record is as lengthy as it is loathsome–from red-lining New York housing and crusading for the execution of the “Central Park Five” for a gang rape they didn’t commit to his “birther” attacks on Barack Obama, his “blame on both sides” characterization of the infamous, white-power rally in Charlottesville and his ongoing tweets and re-tweets of racist commentary. And a lot more. Does Kanye West have that much cred with African-Americans?

Joe Biden, not unlike a lot of the electorate, was wondering out loud how serious black voters could even consider voting for the racially-vile occupant of the White Nationalist House. The same rhetorical question about oxymoronic fealty, frankly, could also be asked of evangelicals and women who support Trump. Is it some kind of perverse Faustian deal, classic hypocrisy or just unconscionable cluelessness?

This isn’t quibbling over discerning minorities voting Republican. If the Biden option were John Kasich, Jon Huntsman, John McCain, Mitt Romney or Jeb! Bush, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

But the choice is between Biden, an imperfect, experienced, qualified candidate whose mistakes are typically political gaffes, or Trump, the avatar of immorality, sexism and racism whose mistakes are a threat to the country and the planet.

If you’re black or an evangelical or a woman and your 2020 candidate for president is Trump, the onus is on you–not Trump’s opponent–to explain what the hell you’re doing with your vote.

COVID Bits

#AloneTogether

* Emergency room visits are down nearly 50 percent across Florida. But it’s not, alas, because there are far fewer emergencies, but because patients, including those suffering heart attacks and strokes, are increasingly delaying–or refusing–care because they are afraid of going to a hospital during a pandemic.

* 83 percent: That’s how much profits in the Florida tourism industry dropped in mid-April.

* The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Tampa has reopened–with a new-normal ambience that includes masks, thermal imaging and sanitized chips as part of a “safety first mentality.” But will its customers feel comfortable enough in a pandemic casino, safety measures notwithstanding? Well, they are gamblers.

* 12.9 percent: The Florida unemployment rate for April, a modern-day record. The national unemployment rate is 14.7 percent. Highest unemployment rate: Nevada (28.2 percent); lowest rate: Connecticut (7.9 percent).

* No mandatory COVID testing in nursing homes yet? Nearly half of all Florida COVID deaths are tied to long-term care facilities. What’s DeSantis waiting for? Trump intervention? Not much he can do about cruise ships or ICE detention centers, but nursing homes?  How about whatever it takes, including diverting state and federal funds? Or are nursing homes de facto triage operations?

* The Tampa Bay Comic Convention (July 10-12 at Tampa Convention Center) is set to return–as in “green light to proceed.” Watch for all those Comicon Spidermen with masks.

* Sign of re-opening: an abandoned scooter.

Sports Shorts

* MLB management and the MLB Players Association are still working their way through protocols for opening the season. The Players Association, for example, wants more frequent coronavirus testing, while MLB management wants a ban on spitting.

* I like watching Fox Sports classic Rays and Lightning games, especially since I know they wouldn’t be dubbed “classic” in this market if the home teams didn’t win. Exciting, relaxing guaranteed wins help. They also afford the opportunity to be a bit more analytical of what’s happening on the ice as well as being more aware of arena optics.

Speaking of the latter, in the Bolts’ first-ever playoff win at The Spectrum in Philadelphia in 1996, I noticed a “Trump Castle” ad along the rinkside boards–between Amtrak and Mountain Dew signage. No, there’s no avoiding Trump reminders, even when you’re escaping to sports replays during isolation. BTW, the Trump Castle casino (in nearby Atlantic City) was eventually sold (as the renamed Trump Marina) in 2011 during one of Trump Entertainment’s numerous bankruptcy filings. Bottom line: There is no distancing from Trump.

Quoteworthy

* “This move by Beijing would rip away the remaining veneer of ‘one country, two systems.’ It would precipitate a crisis in U.S.-China relations.”–Evan Medeiros, a former senior Asia director at the National Security Council, on China’s plans to impose sweeping new security powers over Hong Kong.

* “What we’re fighting against is these long-term trends where being selfish, being tribal, being divided and seeing others as an enemy. That has become a stronger impulse in American life. And, by the way, we’re seeing that internationally as well.”–Former President Barack Obama.

* “We concluded the potential benefit from treatment outweighed the relative risks.”–Rationale of  White House physician Dr. Sean Conley, on why he acceded to President Trump’s request for hydroxychloroquine, an unproven malaria drug.

* “I think the pandemic is the world’s way of saying to mankind, ‘You’re not in charge.'”–U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts.

* “If the race is just Trump vs. Biden, Trump stands a chance. If it’s viewed as Trump vs. Obama, the incumbent has a bigger problem.”–Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times.

* “The firings of multiple Inspectors General is unprecedented. … It is a threat to accountable democracy and a fissure in the constitutional balance of powers.”–Republican Utah Sen. Mitt Romney.

* “(Trump) is the most vaudevillian performance artist who ever inhabited the White House. He has a consuming desire to always be center stage, yet he never wants to reveal who he really is. He masks his finances, his taxes, his friendships, his ongoing family conflicts of interest, his ignorance and his inadequacies. He’s constantly making up areas of expertise he doesn’t have.”–Trump biographer Tim O’Brien.

* “Not every abuse of power, no matter how outrageous, is necessarily a federal crime.”–Attorney General William Barr.

* “There is a growing sense that the recovery may come more slowly than we would like, and that may mean that it’s necessary for us to do more.”–Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell.

* “This state is really leading the way to open up America again.”–Vice President Mike Pence, praising Florida’s handling of the coronavirus crisis during a meeting in Orlando with Gov. Ron DeSantis and hospitality and tourism industry leaders.

* “This is a virus that, if you’re in good shape, you’re probably going to be OK. I think it’s really important that people have access to gyms.”–Gov. Ron DeSantis.

* “You need a different approach. Florida is test-crazy. I think the virus is forcing some rethinking of what has been given over the past few decades.”–Bob Schaeffer, the Florida-based, interim executive director of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing.

* “The requirement to pay fees and costs as a condition of voting is unconstitutional because they are, in substance, taxes.”–U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle in ruling Florida’s voting law, which requires fines, fees and other costs be paid before former felons are allowed to vote, is unconstitutional.

* “The simple truth is that congestion is the problem, not growth and prosperity.”–Jennifer Motsinger, executive vice president of the Tampa Bay Builders Association.

* “The level of uncertainty is absolutely unprecedented.”–Tampa CFO Dennis Rogero.

* We know that as you reopen, the key is to reopen the correct way, because you only get one shot to get it right.”–Bob Morrison, executive director of the Hillsborough County Hotel & Motel Association.

* “We absolutely expect we will be part of the college football season.”–Outback Bowl president Jim McVay.

* “We’re going to have to keep an eye on beach capacity limits. This is something the public is going to have to understand.”–Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.

More Trumpster Diving

“A Republic, if you can keep it.”

* “Vaccine or no vaccine, we’re back.”–Alas, there’s no vaccine for uninformed bombast.

* “Mail-in ballots substantially increase the risk of crime and VOTER FRAUD!” Yes, that was none other than the alpha-mail ethicist-in-chief.

* It’s no surprise that Trump, thanks in no small part to his Administration’s halting and confusing response to the coronavirus, has seen his support eroding among older (65-plus) voters. Multiple polls now show Joe Biden with as much as a 10-point advantage over Trump among senior voters. Keep in mind that Trump, according to national exit poll data, won voters over 65 by seven points in 2016.

Since Trump can’t change his narcissistic personality, skewed priorities or chaotic management style during an existential crisis, he needed to do something to encourage older voters to recommit. Plan B? He recently signed a proclamation declaring May to be “Older Americans Month.”

* President Trump has no legal authority to change the timing of the presidential election. But he still has the wherewithal–via his deplorable base, sycophantic GOPsters and hissy-fitting, disaffected progressives–to change history.

* “I totally disagree with (Dr. Anthony Fauci) on schools.”–Dr. Anthony Fauci had cautioned against moving too quickly in sending students back to class. Too bad Dr. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, only has a scientific, public health forum, not a bully pulpit.

* Not every comparison with the Great Depression is applicable for a pandemic. For openers, the only thing America has to fear is Trump himself.

* Hardly surprising that Karl Rove is the political-advice, go-to guru for Trump Campaign manager Brad Parscale.

* Imagine, a “war-time presidentmissing in action.

* “Obamagate”: The hashtag being feverishly tweeted by Trump that accuses former President Barack Obama of orchestrating his investigation over Russian involvement in the 2016 election. It’s also a reminder that when the nation faces a serious challenge, Trump will self-servingly divert, distort and demonize.

COVID Bits

Haiku for You

Coronavirus

Do not let it defeat us

Honor all heroes

* “Clap for our Careers”: The weekly applause that takes place across Britain at 8 pm every Thursday to show appreciation for all those, including health care workers, helping to keep the country functioning.

* China has announced a plan to test all residents of Wuhan, the city where the coronavirus pandemic began. It will take about 10 days. Wuhan has 11 million residents.

* Deign to dine out? Be careful. Bring a mask and a catheter.

* Speaking of masks, Mitch McConnell would actually look better in one.

* Unemployment statistics showed that 2.98 million people applied for unemployment benefits last week. That’s down from the high of nearly 7 million. For context: The previous, pre-COVID record for jobless claims was 695,000 (1982).  

* “Once on board and off the gate, the face covering policy will become more lenient.” That’s from an American Airlines memo to its pilots. How reassuring.

* “I think in any individual instance, you’re going to see people doing things that are irresponsible. That’s part of the freedom we have here in America.” That was HHS Secretary Alex Azar, rationalizing–if not enabling–life-endangering, counterproductive behavior during a pandemic. It’s part of the double-edged sword of freedom we’re known to wield–and celebrate on bumper stickers–in America. It’s how we defend assault weapons, for example, in the context of cherry-picked, constitutional freedoms

* As of last week, Hillsborough had tested 2.45 percent of the county’s 1.4 million residents.

* A special place in hell: For Ponzi schemers creating a wave of fraud during a pandemic.

* No one envies Dr. Anthony Fauci and other public-health experts who have to tolerate and placate the misinforming manipulator-in-chief.  Fauci is still there because he’d rather save lives than face–while hoping that “First do no harm” doesn’t morph into a hypocritical oath.  

* According to scientists, the genetic structure of the novel coronavirus rules out laboratory manipulation.

* For now, the semi-annual Florida Bar Exam, scheduled for July 28-29 in Tampa and Orlando, is still on. Not everyone, to be sure, is comfortable–even with six-feet distancing and masks. Variables such as queues, breaks, bathrooms and hotels are understandably in the conversation. Wonder if legal waivers–this is, after all, a bar exam–are also part of that conversation?

* It was awkward and unfortunate, but not unnecessary. The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s deputies had to break it up a sizable ad hoc gathering of high school mourners–for a fellow Riverview High student who had died in a car accident–because it violated social distancing guidelines. Too bad public safety had to be imposed in such an emotional context. This wasn’t a stay-at-home protest or a flagrant flaunting of public safety. But the deputies did their job in this sometimes unfair new normal.

Dem Notes

* Stacey Abrams could play a significant role in the Biden campaign. As the feisty, eloquent, African-American female who came close to becoming governor of Georgia in 2018, Abrams, 46, could help gin up the minority vote with a high-profile, surrogate presence. The other night she appeared with Joe Biden on MSNBC to weigh in on voting rights–and their partisan suppression in certain states.

But Abrams doesn’t just want a President Biden; she also wants a Vice President Abrams. She has been publicly lobbying for a place on the ticket, and that hasn’t gone over well with a lot of influential Democrats. There are a couple of rules of thumb that she’s ignoring. First, when you haven’t held office beyond your state and the last race you ran, you lost, the timing is hardly propitious. Second, it’s normally not advisable to, in effect, campaign for the VP slot, even if gender-and-race demographics are weighing heavily. If a black female is on the ticket, it’s much more likely to be Sen. Kamala Harris, who, notably, is endorsing Biden and, even more notably, is following the playbook that discourages self promotion.

* Reality check: “It’s the terrible irony of this moment,” assessed a former Obama White House official who preferred anonymity. “The crisis is perfectly set up for Biden. It calls for the things he’s so good at–showing empathy; working the instruments of government; providing steady, competent leadership. At the same time, the mediums he now has to use do not play to his strengths as a communicator.”

* “If you’re going to succeed at defeating Donald Trump on the internet, you don’t do it by trying to be Trump or by trying to be Trump’s foil and play his game. You do it by being empathetic, compassionate, and forging connections to people.”–Rob Flaherty, the Biden campaign’s digital director.

* COVID restraints notwithstanding, Barack Obama can certainly be a game-changer. He both respects and likes Joe Biden–as opposed to respecting Hillary Clinton in 2016–and was Biden’s ultimate VP vetter. Too much is at stake with another Trump term for the first African-American president not to be a change-agent presence even if the hustings are virtual. Cable talk shows, political ads and podcasts should be forthcoming. The minority vote has to get back to where it was when he was at the top of the ticket.

And look for more clips of that 2011 White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner where Obama filleted Trump’s ego. “The Donald,” of course, saw it as abject humiliation–not sardonic payback for his efforts to advance his high-profile, Obama-“birther” conspiracy theory.