When it comes to packing the federal courts, McConnell and Trump have no shame—and no principles

Focusing on the long-term—especially about matters of governmental and political process—isn’t exactly the easiest thing to do in the middle of a pandemic. However, Republicans never seem to think it’s the wrong time to push every button made available to them in their quest to gain as much power as possible. No matter what constitutional or historical norms they have to trample on, Donald Trump and his party are determined to create a conservative judiciary at the federal level that will endure for a quarter-century or more.

Let’s start, however, with what’s going on in 2020. Moscow Mitch—Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, that is—has been doing things the Founders likely never envisioned when they wrote our Constitution. He, along with allies, have been making calls to aging conservative jurists on the federal courts, reminding them that the clock is ticking—on Trump’s time in the White House, on the Republicans’ hold on the Senate, and, most appropriately given his embrace of the nickname “Grim Reaper,” on their very lives. McConnell has been urging them to all retire ASAP so that he and The Man Who Lost The Popular Vote can put as many young whipper-snappers as possible into lifetime seats on the federal bench, seats they’ll hold long past a Sasha Obama presidency.

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer recently called McConnell out on this blatant manipulation of the process: “Senator McConnell knows he can’t achieve any of his extreme goals legislatively, so he continues to attempt to pull America to the far right by packing the courts.”

As The New York Times notes, some progressives have made statements urging justices to stay in their positions so that Trump can’t appoint their successors, but McConnell has achieved a new low by targeting individual judges and asking them to retire. This ask is a nasty one, on par with greedy heirs rooting for wealthy relatives to die sometime before 2010 came to an end ... just so they could dodge the temporarily-repealed estate tax.

McConnell here is repeating, in private, sentiments that members of his party such as Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley publicly expressed in the run-up to the 2018 midterms: “If you are thinking about quitting this year, do it yesterday. If we have a Democrat Senate, you’re never going to get the kind of people that are strict constructionists.”

For anyone confused, “strict constructionists”—i.e., conservative judges who claim that all they do is look to the plain text of the Constitution when making their rulings—is really just a fancy term Republicans use in public to give a more objective veneer to their preferred judicial approach, which almost always—coincidentally, of course—comes down on the side of the powerful. In other words, characterizing conservative judges as strict constructionists sounds less political than saying that they are right-wing ideologues who vote just like Rush Limbaugh would—even though the latter is the truth.

Republicans are being quite systematic about this whole affair. Their efforts are supported by a private organization called the Article III Project, named after the part of the Constitution that establishes lifetime tenure for federal judges, subject to impeachment and removal if they fail to live up to the standard of “good behaviour” laid down therein. This group exists to “fight for the confirmation of President Trump’s judicial nominees.”

The helpful folks over at A3P—that’s their clever moniker—want to clear out as many existing judges as possible. They’ve identified 90 who were appointed by a previous Republican president and who, based on their age and how many years they’ve served, either qualify or will qualify by year’s end for something called senior status.

According to the court system’s rules, those who take senior status now rather than outright retire allow Trump to put another, younger conservative in their place just as if they had retired. But judges on senior status get to keep drawing their full salary, hire clerks, and hear a reduced caseload. If this sounds bananas to you, you’re not alone. In fact, it’s the best of both worlds for those senior judges and for Republican leaders who want to increase their imprint on the judiciary. Thanks to A3P’s work, McConnell has a long list of people to target and a very attractive offer to make them.

McConnell and Trump have made a great effort to, in the senator’s words, “leave no vacancy behind.” They have placed 51 judges onto the U.S. Court of Appeals in Trump’s first three years (and 191 federal judges overall, as well as two on the Supreme Court), compared to 55 in Barack Obama’s entire eight years in office, and 62 during George W. Bush’s presidency. Trump has now named more than one-quarter of all sitting U.S. Appeals Court justices.

A good chunk of those new appellate judges—more than one out of three—took a spot previously held by a Democratic-appointed justice, thus shifting the bench hard to the right. Particularly noteworthy is the contrast between the diversity of the judges Obama appointed—only 31% of whom were white men, compared to 67% for Trump. For reference, somewhere around 40-45% of lawyers are white males, and white males constitute around 30% of the overall U.S. population, according to census data.

The New York Times conducted an in-depth analysis earlier this month of these Trump judges and found that they differ “significantly” from those nominated by either Obama or G.W. Bush. Regarding their activities prior to being nominated by Trump, they had been “more openly engaged in causes important to Republicans, such as opposition to gay marriage and to government funding for abortion.” They were also more likely to have been political appointees and made political donations. Even more alarming has been their impact after taking up their new positions:

When ruling on cases, they have been notably more likely than other Republican appointees to disagree with peers selected by Democratic presidents, and more likely to agree with those Republican appointees, suggesting they are more consistently conservative. Among the dozen or so judges that most fit the pattern, The Times found, are three Mr. Trump has signaled were on his Supreme Court shortlist.

While the appellate courts favor consensus and disagreement remains relatively rare — there were 125 instances when a Trump appointee wrote the majority opinion or dissent in a split decision — the new judges have ruled on disputed cases across a range of contentious issues, including abortion, immigration, L.G.B.T. rights and lobbying requirements, the examination shows.

Sen. McConnell has long been clear about the level of importance he places on reshaping the federal judiciary. "There are over 1,200 executive branch appointments that come to us for confirmation, and among the most important—in fact, I would argue, the most important—confirmations we have are lifetime appointments to the judiciary," McConnell told NPR. "Obviously, this is my top priority."

McConnell’s success in placing conservative judges on the federal bench during Trump’s tenure is a direct result of his actions in the final two years of Obama’s presidency. After Republicans took control of the Senate in 2015, they basically just stopped approving his nominees. The Brookings Institution noted the “unprecedentedly miniscule number of confirmations” that were carried out in those two years under McConnell’s leadership. That’s why there were 103 open seats on the federal bench for Trump to fill when he was inaugurated.

Without question, the most important of those openings was on the Supreme Court. McConnell ensured that seat remained open for almost a full year after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia by denying a hearing, let alone a vote, to President Obama’s nominee, U.S. District Court Chief Justice Merrick Garland. Garland was a moderate about whom Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch had said in 2010: “I have no doubts that Garland would get a lot of (Senate) votes. And I will do my best to help him get them.” However, Hatch did not keep his word in 2016. Oh, and during the Supreme Court confirmation process for Brett Kavanaugh, he pretended like the Garland nomination never happened. That’s what you call a double back-flip worth of bullshit.

Additionally, Garland was 63 years old when Obama nominated him, so his age itself served as a kind of compromise when compared to, for example, the nomination of 43-year-old Clarence Thomas by George H.W. Bush to a lifetime seat on the highest court back in 1992.

The way McConnell and Co. abused the established process when they essentially ignored a presidential nomination to the Supreme Court also qualifies as unprecedented, despite widely debunked Republican protestations to the contrary. As The New York Times editorial board wrote shortly after the 2016 election, the seat in which Justice Neil Gorsuch now sits is a “stolen seat.” Encouraging a mass wave of retirements in order to give Trump an even more outsized imprint on the federal judiciary would, if it succeeds, represent another form of theft.

All of this—from the blocking of Garland to the personalized arm-twisting aimed at getting judges to give up their seats in the coming months before it’s too late—reflects a level of cynicism and rejection of principle that has defined the contemporary Republican Party going back to even before Trump took it over. Principles? To Republicans, those are for suckers, i.e. Democrats.

Our Constitution’s authors were, generally speaking, not naive. They didn’t trust easily—they created the Electoral College because they didn’t trust the people to directly elect our president. However, the Framers failed to anticipate how the rules they wrote into the Constitution might be abused. They likely did not imagine that the Senate’s charge to provide “advice and consent,” as laid out in Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the Constitution, would lead to the kind of treatment with which the nomination of Judge Garland was met. The Framers never planned for Mitch McConnell.

Because of what he has done, Democrats are faced with a choice if and when they retake the White House and the Senate. Do they act in kind, and similarly game the system? Or do they take the high road, which would allow Republicans to hold on to their ill-gotten gains in the judicial branch? Keep in minds they all too often use those gains to further tighten their grip on power through judicial rulings on, for example, matters like voting rights or gerrymandering.

There’s only one way out of that dilemma: namely, to fundamentally alter the process so that it could not be gamed so easily. We need to get rid of lifetime tenure for federal judges, from the Supreme Court right on down the line. There are many different proposals out there, most of which focus on term limits for the highest court, but McConnell’s most recent actions make clear that such limits are necessary at lower levels as well. I haven’t seen polling done on term limits for all federal judges, but Supreme Court term limits are quite popular, with Democrats, Republicans, and independents all expressing similar levels of support.

To be sure, it would not be easy to implement such changes, as they would require a constitutional amendment. Nevertheless, such changes are necessary because any process that is based on principles, for example the idea that life tenure for justices is necessary to ensure that they'll be independent and removed from politics, will be abused by Republicans who have no principles at all.

Our democratic system must be governed by processes that prevent abuse by the unprincipled. As I’ve written before, Republicans seem to be taking their cues from young adult fiction of all places, leaning on the values of Harry Potter’s nemesis, Lord Voldemort—derived from Friedrich Nietzsche, the German philosopher who has inspired everyone on the right from Hitler to today’s white nationalists (even if they all get him wrong, but that’s another story): “There is no good and evil, there is only power, and those too weak to seek it.”

Nancy LeTourneau at Washington Monthly wrote that McConnell’s recent “outreach” to aging Republican judges indicates that he is “running scared” because “he is aware that his party will soon be out of power.” I rarely hope that McConnell is right about anything.

This time, however, Moscow Mitch and I are completely on the same page.

Ian Reifowitz is the author of The Tribalization of Politics: How Rush Limbaugh's Race-Baiting Rhetoric on the Obama Presidency Paved the Way for Trump (Foreword by Markos Moulitsas)

Schiff drafting plans for 9/11-styled commission to investigate failed pandemic preparations

In an interview with Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, House Intelligence Committee chair Rep. Adam Schiff says that his staff is now working on a "discussion draft" for creating an independent commission to investigate the failures of the United States in preparing for the COVID-19 pandemic. The commission would be modeled after the 9/11 Commission, created to investigate the events leading up to the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City and the Pentagon.

Schiff told Ignatius that that would be delayed "until the crisis has abated to ensure it does not interfere with" agencies' ongoing response efforts.

The most obvious concern, of course, is whether Trump and surrounding loyalists ignored warnings about the rapidly spreading virus due to Trump's obsession over his own self-interests. Ignatius reports that intelligence officials are already concerned that new acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell, a partisan Trump loyalist, is "trying to shape intelligence that might challenge or embarrass Trump."

If this is the case, and there is absolutely no reason to believe Grenell would not act in such a fashion, an investigation of administration actions cannot be delayed for long. The Trump administration has already been caught once engaging in criminal conduct intended solely to benefit Trump's own reelection, resulting in impeachment; there is no question that Trump's team, having been immunized from consequences for those acts by a similarly corrupt Republican-held Senate, may engage in more.

McConnell rewrites history to blame massive fail on coronavirus on (checks notes) impeachment

Sen. “Moscow” Mitch McConnell went on the Hugh Hewitt radio show Tuesday, as he often does when he wants to be especially awful. He was exceptionally awful in all the most predictable ways: blaming the crisis we're in right now on impeachment—because of course he did—and rewriting all of the last three months of history while doing it.

The slow response by President Donald Trump and Congress to the COVID-19 crisis, McConnell said, was because the impeachment "diverted the attention of the government." Except that's total bunk. The Senate was still functioning while the impeachment trial was going forward during the last week in January, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was confirming the initial cases in the U.S. The business of the Senate included a Jan. 24 all-senators briefing on coronavirus with Trump health officials, including the CDC director and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. You remember that meeting, right? That's the one that happened just before three Senate Republicans dumped millions’ worth of stocks, collectively. That's the action they decided to take when confronted with the calamity that had hit our shores.

Enough of this. Please give $1 to our nominee fund to help Democrats and end McConnell's career as majority leader.

In fact, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, who had received additional briefings, blew off the warnings. "The coronavirus doesn’t appear to pose any imminent threat to Americans who have not recently traveled to the Hubei province of China," he said. "For now, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control have the resources needed to prevent any significant contagion from spreading into the United States. If more resources are needed, Congress stands at the ready." He came to that conclusion on Feb. 4, the day before the Senate voted against the impeachment charges against Trump.

Continuing on with the rewriting of history in the Hewitt interview, McConnell gave credit to Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton for being "first" to warn of the dangers of coronavirus. "He was first. I think Tom was right on the mark." Right on the mark meaning spouting bigoted and dangerous conspiracy theories about how the virus might have been (wink, wink) a chemical weapon developed in "China's only biosafety level 4 super laboratory that researches human infectious diseases." Sure Mitch, you go ahead with the idea of Cotton being the big epidemiological brain in the Senate GOP.

Because it's Mitch, there's more. More typical Republican denial of the breadth and depth of this crisis, and how it's affecting real people. "I'm not going to allow this to be an opportunity for the Democrats to achieve unrelated policy items they wouldn't otherwise be able to pass," he sniffed, dismissing the necessity for further action by Congress to save the whole damned country. No, he's got his eyes on his true prize.

When the Senate gets back, it will "go back to judges. […] My motto for the rest of the year is to leave no vacancy behind."

How Donald Trump could use his coronavirus disaster to win reelection this November

In today’s absurd news, there’s this: 

#BREAKING Global News Exclusive: Trump looking to put troops near Canadian border amid coronavirus fears - National | https://t.co/RD1lLNARNe https://t.co/oNU25op63U @globalnews #cdnpoli #coronavirus #COVID19

— Mercedes Stephenson (@MercedesGlobal) March 26, 2020

Everything about that is stupid. Canadians have better health care and are giving better cash payments to individuals to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. It’s a massive border and there’s no way anyone can seal it, much less some poor sap in combat boots. Symbolically, it’s the world’s largest demilitarized border. Why mess with that? There's nothing useful or practical about it! Well, there’s one benefit to Donald Trump: He can pretend that he’s “doing something.”

Remember, everything Trump does is predicated on his reelection. That’s why he tried so hard to limit testing in the early days. Instead of working to stem the spread of the disease, he decided that rising numbers were a threat to his political standing and he reacted accordingly. You can see it in this new ad by the Joe Biden campaign: 

holy shit this @JoeBiden ad is good. pic.twitter.com/CAgIrt2Zua

— Florida Chris (@chrislongview) March 26, 2020

The past month has been about minimizing the impact of the pandemic, promising that the numbers will fall, promising snake oil cures, dismissing it as “just like the flu,” and as of late, demanding that people get back to work because “the cure can’t be worse than the disease.” 

“The cure,” of course, being people losing their jobs, while “the disease” is people losing their lives. 

But there’s a method to the madness. Whether it’s closing the border, or comparing COVID-19 to the flu, or demanding people get back to work, it all has an underlying electoral purpose. Remember that solutions to the pandemic are liberal ones: government support of individuals, government intervention in the economy, better health care, better social safety net, communal action, etc. This isn’t 9/11, when conservatives could bloat the Pentagon budget even further, ride a new wave of racism, and curtail civil liberties. So how do Trump and the Republicans work this to their favor? 

Here’s what they’ll do (and they’re already doing it):

1. TRUMP IS DECISIVE

Oh my god, Trump can’t stop being the best leader the world has ever seen! Did you see? He closed the border to China. Biden didn’t want Trump to close the border to China, but he did so anyway, because that’s the bold kind of leadership that saved thousands of lives.  

Trump also closed the borders with Mexico and Canada and deployed our troops, because fuck yeah America is the greatest and so are our troops, and Trump is taking action while liberals want open borders. 

What about testing kits, shuttering the pandemic preparedness task force, and months of promising that things were “beautiful” and “perfect” and everything would be fine just around the corner? Those are nasty questions and Trump is too busy being decisive anyway to answer them. Next!

2. LIBERALS BROKE THE ECONOMY

The flu will kill 60-80,000 people this year, and we didn’t shut down the economy because of it. Only a few hundred/thousand/tens of thousands have died because of this virus, and we had to destroy the economy as a result? This was just a liberal plot to defeat Donald Trump at the ballot box. They were angry because the impeachment hoax failed, and they decided to punish the whole country as a result. 

Why do you think it’s Democratic governors that are closing their states? Republicans tried to keep America working, and Democrats took your jobs away to punish Donald Trump for being the best president in history. It’s their fault the economy is bad. Only Republicans can fix it. 

3. RACISM

The Chinese created this virus and infected America with it. No one could’ve predicted that our enemies would be so ruthless and calculating and effective in conducting a biological attack on our country. It’s their fault. We need Republicans to stand tough against the Chinese for their cowardly attack on our soil. 

4. REGIONALISM

If liberals and their sanctuary cities weren’t so “welcoming” to all manners of riff-raff, the disease wouldn’t have spread throughout America. Where did the “Chinese virus” take hold? Seattle. San Francisco. New York. It figures that those liberals would infect the rest of Real America with their virus. Trump is trying to protect the Heartland from the evils of urban liberals.

So yeah, that’s their campaign. It’s already started. The pieces are already in place. And when you see a conservative or Trump say something seemingly insane, note how it fits one of those categories above. For example:

�Approximately 7500 people die every day in the United States. That�s approximately 645,000 people so far this year. Coronavirus has killed about 1,000 Americans this year. Just a little perspective.� @RealCandaceO

— Rudy W. Giuliani (@RudyGiuliani) March 26, 2020

See?

Will it play with their base? Undoubtedly. They’re too stupid for words. 

Will it play with Democrats? Clearly not. 

Will it play with Independents? Well, “independent” is not an ideology, and spans everything from Alex Jones crazies to Bernie socialists to the politically apathetic. We do know that government (read: Trump) approval ratings for managing the crisis are ebbing down among independents. 

So maybe it won’t work, in the aggregate, amongst that group. 

The one wild card is the death rate. If coronavirus deaths remain below or equal to flu deaths, then the argument that the Democrats blew up the economy for no reason will have added salience to the stupidity. So for that reason alone, you’d think that Trump would be working overtime to bend the curve. Yet he’s doing quite the opposite, in fact. It boggles the mind. 

Stem the death toll, and Trump has a ready-made excuse for the shitty economy: The Democrats overreacted. Instead, his actions are pushing us closer to the nightmare scenario. For example, look at what happens if Florida doesn’t take action within the next couple of weeks:

CovidActNow.org

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is among the fiercest Trump allies, and will not do anything to contradict or undermine the impeached president’s words and actions. So we’re talking somewhere in between “no action” and “social distancing.” No matter what happens in New York and California (fiercely working to stop the spread of the disease), Florida alone may be Trump’s undoing. Even if those numbers are overly dire, one-third of the “social distancing” death toll is a horrifying 100,000. With numbers like that, Trump and the GOP won’t be able to compare COVID-19 to the flu anymore. 

Furthermore, the more the disease ravages red states and rural America, the harder it’ll be to dismiss it as a creation of New York City and San Francisco. Oh, they’ll try anyway! But local politicians will bear the brunt of explaining why they didn’t take the necessary precautions, especially if small-state death tolls end up exceeding those of New York and California—which is quite plausible. 

For example, the models that drive the CovidActNow.org projections estimate that California’s death toll, with its shelter-in-place already in action, will be around 11,000. Meanwhile, Missouri, which hasn’t taken any action at all, could see up to 122,000, Oklahoma could see 79,000 deaths, and Tennessee 136,000. As horrific as things look in New York right now, measures in place may limit the damage to 38,000. (California looks as good as it does because it was the first to start shutting down, particularly the five pioneering Bay Area counties that beat anyone else by almost a week.) 

In any case, if we see that kind of death toll play out around the country, Trump’s goose is cooked, and so is his entire party. Otherwise, whether by luck (a vaccine or better treatment emerges), or by action (militarizing the Canadian border stops the spread of COVID-19 in Arkansas!), Republicans will use that mix of liberal-blamin’, big-city-hatin’, racism creatin’, and grandiose Trump myth-makin’, to explain away the economic collapse, and pin the blame squarely on the Democrats. 

Fascism: Personnel director quits in ongoing Trump purge of non-loyalists from government

Every single paragraph of this Politico report on the resignation of Office of Personnel Management (OPM) director Dale Cabaniss somehow manages to be its own special brand of terrifying.

The short version is that ex-Trump "body man" John McEntee, who Trump appointed to head the Presidential Personnel Office despite zero qualifications other than the requisite suck-up-ness, seems to have so infuriated Cabaniss that he bailed out with zero notice on Tuesday. The longer version is that McEntee and allies seem to be a rolling catastrophe, combining demands for absolute loyalty with what appears to be a fairly solid attempt to reactivate the Hitler Youth.

There are, bizarrely, now three college undergraduates moved by McEntee and crew into positions of new appointee vetting, with no good (or any) explanations from McEntee as to just why some of the most sensitive hiring decisions in government are going through Trump-loyal college seniors taking a break from doing their coursework. John Troup Hemenway, James Bacon, and Anthony Labruna are all college seniors with no apparent qualifications for their positions other than, again, Trump loyalty.

But there's also the arrival of a new "White House liaison" to the OPM, Paul Dans, who appears to be assisting McEntee in his fascist-premised purge of disloyal-to-Trump government officials but, again, has seemingly little relevant experience for his new position or duties. Reading between the lines, it appears Dans' performance so far is not impressing the people in government with actual work to do.

All of this, in other words, is becoming a complete sh-tshow in the post-impeachment days of Trump attempting to remove anyone and everyone in government who is not loyal to him while, simultaneously, a pandemic sweeps through American cities on a six-week head start due to the astonishing incompetence of Dear Leader and his boot-licking loyalists.

It doesn't seem possible to imagine how the Trump team's response to the current crisis could get worse than it currently is, but Trump's ex-soda-bringer is assembling a team to make sure it absolutely does get worse, and that anyone with subject-matter expertise who might have slipped through initial appointment cracks is quickly replaced with new, invariably compliant toadies who know better than to contradict Trump's various imaginary pronouncements about how Actually he is doing the best job of anyone who ever lived, so shut up.

Again, with no pushback from Republican lawmakers or anyone else in the party. With no worry, on the part of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Republican Senate, that Trump's purge of non-loyalists will further wreck an already incompetent government response to a pandemic that could kill untold numbers of Americans. Not a peep.

Republicans are trying to get people killed (and are being stunningly effective)

The situation in Italy is spiraling out of control, with infections and deaths spiking by the hour. 

BREAKING: Another HUGE increase in #CoronaVirus infections in Italy �� 3 590 infected and 368 dead today alone. - 24 747 infected. - 1 809 dead. - 7.3% death rate. This is a human tragedy �

— PeterSweden (@PeterSweden7) March 15, 2020

The United States is on track to emulate Italy, both in the reach and severity of the human and economic toll. One party is doing its best to save lives. Unfortunately, it’s not the party in control of the White House, Senate, or wide swaths of the media. And those Republican efforts to confuse, obfuscate, and obstruct a real response are dismayingly effective. Let us count the ways. 

Impeached President Donald Trump

From disbanding the White House pandemic preparedness task force to refusing to let the U.S. use the World Health Organization COVID-19 test, to his daily lies, it’s obvious that the rot starts at the very top. What did people think was going to happen when they put a bigoted, serial sexual harasser reality TV star in charge of the country? Those who vote on racial animus and misogyny are getting a daily reminder of what that costs our country. And ironically, or perhaps not so much so, they are the ones who will bear the brunt of the coming pandemic. 

Meanwhile, Trump continues to model poor behavior; he shows on a daily basis that he is the single biggest impediment to the kind of national behavioral changes we need to see to arrest this disease with the least amount of damage possible.

Trump has decided the entire coronavirus mess is a dastardly plot to deny him a second term. He is incapable of considering the human toll of the disease, or the economic ramifications to everyday Americans. He’s concerned only about how it affects his reelection. And again, his acolytes take their cues from the top, such as the Trish Regan abomination that adorns the top of this post. 

Regan did end up losing her prime time show over that segment, showing that at least someone at Fox corporate realizes that killing off their core demographic (their median age is 65). But she’s not the only pushing the theory that this is all one big political ploy to damage Trump. Trump’s very own outgoing chief of staff has been making that case for weeks. “The press was covering their hoax of the day because they thought it would bring down the president,” Mulvaney told attendees at the conservative CPAC conference, at the same time the disease was spreading among its attendees. “The reason you’re seeing so much attention to [the coronavirus] today is that they think this is going to be what brings down the president. That’s what this is all about.” 

And of course, let’s not forget Trump: 

�They�re trying to scare everybody, from meetings, cancel the meetings, close the schools � you know, destroy the country. And that�s ok, as long as we can win the election,� POTUS told guests at Mar-a-Lago last weekend. https://t.co/UxZb0GumFU

— Josh Dawsey (@jdawsey1) March 15, 2020

He literally says it’s okay if the country is destroyed as long as he wins reelection. He doesn't give a shit about the economic or human toll of the pandemic and will act only to safeguard his electoral effort. And that’s why we don’t have testing. He thinks a higher number of confirmed cases makes him look bad. 

President Trump "did not push to do aggressive additional testing in recent weeks [because] more testing might have led to more cases being discovered of coronavirus outbreak, and the president had made clear the lower the numbers on coronavirus, the better for the president" https://t.co/aa2QHQVbPk

— Derek Thompson (@DKThomp) March 12, 2020

We all knew this. Even Republicans knew this when they acquitted him during the impeachment trial. Yet they didn’t care. So they own this: Every death, every job lost. It’s all on them. 

The Trump executive branch

Donald Trump had white nationalist Stephen Miller and idiot-boy Jared Kushner whip up a random-ass “I’m doing stuff” speech just hours before airing, with little regard to any consequences their spur-of-the-moment “proposals” would create. Among them, a complete ban on all travel and commerce between the United States and Europe that single-handedly almost completely crashed the US economy. Embarrassingly, the administration had to walk that back—no, it didn't apply to the cargo. And no, it didn’t apply to Americans. (So … what’s the point? Americans have super awesome immunity powers?) Yet in the panic that situation created, Americans rushed back home and … created these kinds of scenes at US customs points of entry:

#BREAKING: Passengers stuck in long lines for immigration at @DFWAirport tell us there are no offers of hand sanitizer, gloves, or masks from U.S. Customs / Immigration. Travelers say they�ve had no screenings of temp yet and no one following #coronavirus protocols. pic.twitter.com/9viCnWdncz

— Jason Whitely (@JasonWhitely) March 15, 2020

By supposedly acting to prevent the disease from entering the United States (even though, um, it’s already here), those morons in the executive branch didn’t think “maybe we should bolster staffing at customs checkpoints. Maybe we should create a plan to space out people, so we wouldn’t create the Petri dish we’re supposedly trying to prevent.” 

Conservatism

It is in precisely older, rural counties that hospitals are being closed in record numbers. “The hospital closure crisis is most pronounced in states that have declined Medicaid expansion, the policy in the Affordable Care Act that offers coverage for individuals whose income is at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty line,” reported Mother Jones. “Of the 106 rural hospitals that have shut down since 2010, 77 were located in states that hadn’t expanded Medicaid, the study found.” In their zeal to stick it to Obamacare, those older rural areas are losing exactly the one thing that saves the lives of the elderly and those with compromised immune systems once infected—hospital beds. 

This novel coronavirus is treatable as long as severely impacted patients can be hooked up to respirators. But given available hospital beds, that becomes impossible once a critical mass of patients is infected, they outstrip the supply of hospital beds, and they are then left to die, gasping for air. That’s why the Italian death toll has climbed so high, with doctors having to perform battlefield-style triage—is this patient too old? Too (otherwise) sick? Do they have small children at home? Even patients who survive initial triage may be unplugged if someone with a greater survival chance shows up. It is beyond nightmarish. 

And you know what? The United States has fewer hospital beds, per thousand people, than even Italy

    South Korea: 12.3

    China: 4.3

    Italy: 3.2

    United States: 2.8

South Korea has handled the virus better than anyone else, and guess what, having hospital beds is part of the answer. Meanwhile, thanks to conservative hostility to the Affordable Care Act and its fealty to a for-profit health care system, our number of beds has fallen between 2010 and 2017, despite the population having grown by 16 million in that time frame. 

Republican elected officials

The Democratic House passed a coronavirus response bill on Friday. Republican Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell went on vacation over the weekend, adjourning the Senate as a result. He doesn’t plan on checking on that House bill until Tuesday, lunch, at the earliest, even though Trump has signaled that he will sign it. 

They just don’t give a shit. 

Here’s Oklahoma’s Republican governor Kevin Stitt, Friday night, in a now-deleted tweet: 

Of course, it stands to follow that if Trump doesn’t think this is a big deal, then those who blindly follow him will shrug off any attempts to contain the virus, or “flatten the curve.” Flattening the curve is slowing the rate of transmission so that people don’t get sick all at once. The more you can spread it out, the less stress on those limited hospital beds. 

Trump’s favorite bootlicker, Rep. Devin Nunes, went on Fox to tell viewers to go out on the town. “One of the things you can do, if you're healthy you and your family, it's a great time to just go out, go to a local restaurant,” he said, dooming who knows how many people to death. “Likely you can get in easily. There's, you know, let's not hurt the working people in this country that are relying on wages and tips to keep their small business going. [...] Go to your local pub.”

In Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Republicans are refusing to postpone an election even though the state’s Democratic governor has ordered a statewide lockdown. 

Conservative media

It’s no surprise that most of the irresponsible dismissing of COVID-19 featured above is happening on Fox News. The network has prostrated itself before Trump, effectively becoming like a state-run propaganda arm. They won’t do anything to get on the wrong side of Trump. It’s a feature, not a bug. 

On Fox & Friends, Jerry Falwell Jr claims people are "overreacting" to coronavirus, the national response is "their next attempt to get Trump," and the virus itself is a North Korean bioweapon. pic.twitter.com/2JPuNBW7C3

— Bobby Lewis (@revrrlewis) March 13, 2020

Or how about this? 

But it obviously goes far beyond Fox News. Just two days ago, Rush Limbaugh said on his radio show, “We’re shutting down our country because of the … cold virus.” The Christian Right and their media machinery are praying away the coronavirus. They’ve been so effective at dismissing the threat that even pastors who take this seriously are dismayed, “One pastor said half of his church is ready to lick the floor, to prove there’s no actual virus,” one pastor told The Washington Post. Alex Jones is selling fake coronavirus cures. Idiot #MAGA types on Twitter are having their own, er, fun.

How do #MAGA & #KAG folks have fun during a pandemic? Apparently some like licking airplane toilet seats in a SAD attempt to show the #coronavirus is a hoax. Perhaps to also prove they'll make good tRump supporters!#COVID19 Found at @AwardsDarwinpic.twitter.com/y9jAqRrpbx

— McSpockyâÂ�¢ ðÂ�Â�½ðÂ�Â�Â�ðÂ�Â�Â� #VoteBlue2020 (@mcspocky) March 15, 2020

If you’re sitting here wondering what the hell is wrong with these people, you’re not alone. Trapped in their conservative anti-science media bubble, they’re whipping themselves up into a fervor of denialism and frothy conspiracy theories. 

The results

The results are devastating. Republicans simply don’t believe that they should take COVID-19 seriously.

The coronavirus partisan divide is real. Twice as many Democrats (60%) are changing plans or taking precautions than Republicans (31%). 88% of Republicans are satisfied with the government's response. Among Democrats? 11%. Survey report @Civiqs 3/8-11: https://t.co/sGoSTbhEsI

— Drew Linzer (@DrewLinzer) March 14, 2020

And it’s even worse among Fox News viewers, only 9% of which are “extremely concerned” about the virus. These are the same people who live in mortal fear of an “illegal” coming and murdering them. The big difference? They will definitely end up knowing about someone who died of the novel coronavirus, while those mythical hordes of undocumented murderers only exist in the imagination of the network’s most bigoted hosts. (48% of MSNBC viewers are “extremely concerned,” which is still low. It should be 100%. But that network isn’t sowing misinformation.)

I used to joke that Republicans would come out in favor of cancer if President Barack Obama ever declared his opposition to it publicly. At least, it was supposed to be a joke. Now we find out that a global pandemic killing tens of thousands has become a partisan issue. Not because it is a partisan issue. There is nothing Republican or Democratic or liberal or conservative about a deadly disease. But because Trump’s botched handling of the pandemic makes him “look bad,” and there is no greater sin in the world than making Trump look bad. 

It might be funny or the material for easy partisan points, except people are dying, and a lot more will die before scientists find a vaccine. And while we could be making efforts to mitigate the carnage, both in human and economic terms, we have an entire half of the country’s divide refusing to accept our new reality and demanding we pretend all is well, nothing to see here, please carry on, preferably at your local pub or cruise ship. 

It’s staggeringly irresponsible. The final culmination of an ideology so divorced from reality, that it will literally kill, disproportionately, the older and rural people that form its base. And—this is legitimately ironic—it is liberals trying to save their lives. 

Trump’s failure to take aggressive action on viral outbreak much worse than simple neglect

Whether chosen democratically or by some other means, a leader’s true character comes out in a crisis. It’s then that people find out whether the person they have entrusted or acquiesced to be in charge is up to the job. In a democracy, thoughtful and decisive action not only is required of leaders, but it must also be carefully explained, with rationale provided. “We can get through this” is not a bad message to deliver as long as it’s backed by facts, even if those have more than a tinge of grimness. Blood, sweat, and tears kind of stuff, when necessary. Happy talk, on the other hand, is not helpful. And lies—well, lies can be lethal.

Credibility in a crisis matters a great deal even for an autocrat. If people believe what their leader tells them, then they’ll be far more willing to sacrifice to meet a crisis, whatever it is. They will strive to adjust their lives to protect themselves and others. There is a can-do spirit when they can trust that sacrifice hasn’t been forced on them by incompetence or abuse of power. When they sense that their leaders are depending on the advice of wise and compassionate minds to guide them past the shoals, the result is a tamping down of panic and overreaction. People will lay aside deep differences for the duration of a crisis and pull together to conquer something that knows no ideological lines.

But we, unfortunately, in the pandemic now underway have people in charge at the top who don’t have a shred of credibility or trust, except among the terminally gullible or venal, which, unfortunately, is still a substantial part of the American population. 

The string of lies and dissembling we’ve heard for weeks from Donald J. Trump and some of his minions regarding the coronavirus has been bad enough. Far worse on Thursday, however, was an interview on NPR in which Politico reporter Dan Diamond said that Trump not only ignored warnings two months ago, but he also worked to keep testing to a minimum so as to ensure the case numbers remained low, in order not to tarnish his image as the best-ever president in an election year.

Diamond told Fresh Air’s Terry Gross that Trump “did not push to do aggressive additional testing in recent weeks, and that’s partly because more testing might have led to more cases being discovered of coronavirus outbreak, and the president had made clear—the lower the numbers on coronavirus, the better for the president, the better for his potential reelection this fall.” Thus did Trump guarantee that the virus would be spread to far more people.

Let that sink in. Trump didn’t just want to keep the numbers low; he made an effort to see that they stayed that way, all so it would be easier for him to preen on the campaign trail. While this intentional failure to test was underway, so was the spread of the virus across America, now confirmed in all but two states. We don’t know how many cases there are. We can’t—because mass testing has still not occurred. Containment was always a myth here because of the lack of early response, and now it’s utterly busted, no matter what Larry Kudlow says. This failure will cost dollars and lives. Very possibly lots of both. On Trump’s watch. 

As for his character? His second response to the crisis, after first calling it a Democratic and media hoax, was the usual: How can I turn this to my personal advantage? The guy who claims the informal title of “leader of the free world” will. never. ever. change. 

Either through neglect or—if the reports of test suppression prove accurate—with malicious intent, Trump abused his authority in a manner that hampered the early taking of preventative measures that could have stopped people from spreading the virus, which is now rampant and killing. This isn’t incompetence, or sloppiness, or too much on his plate. It’s sociopathy. 

It’s hard to see how Trump can hang on to all his fans when he can’t bullshit them with tales about something going on outside their experience or view. The infection is happening here. How long will it be before most Americans know somebody with the coronavirus? How long before many know somebody who died of it? It’s hard to believe that that won’t pry at least a few more people out of his thrall. But it’s frankly depressing that so many didn’t long ago see this dangerous parasite for what he is. So maybe even this failure won’t do the trick. 

Lots of the people he stiffed or grifted or committed fraud against have known about Trump’s character since long ago. But he made it super-clear to the rest of America and the world when he became the king of birtherism, with his vile and relentless othering of Barack Obama with a bogus claim promoted by dishonest conspiracymongers displaying the morality if not the regalia of Klansmen. 

Since then he has flashed that character to the nation repeatedly, from tossing paper towels at suffering Puerto Ricans after Hurricane María, while othering them as foreigners despite their U.S. citizenship, to charging the taxpayers for the room and board of Secret Service agents that must accompany him on visits to his own resort, Mar-a-Lago. If they didn’t already know, people who read the Mueller report or watched the impeachment testimony and Democratic prosecutors in the Senate with an open mind know what he’s about, just as do the students he ripped off at Trump U and the folks his charitable foundation was supposed to help when he illegally helped himself to the money instead.

Here’s a guy who operates by bribes and hush payments, a sexual predator who treats women like meat; approves of putting kids in cages; thinks there are some good American Nazis; incites mayhem at rallies; spouts racist slurs; and has a white supremacist adviser just down the hall. He holds secret tête-à-têtes and makes secret deals with dictators, including the Russian one Trump knows meddled in the 2016 U.S. election and, new reports assert, is meddling again now as he works to remain top dog in the Kremlin for another 16 years. He gives cover to the Saudi autocrat Mohammed bin Salman even when brutal assassination is involved. 

Trump shatters international agreements and endangers Americans and other world citizens, essentially flipping off the Paris climate accord as a favor to the science deniers and fossil fuel industry, and bringing us to the brink of war with Iran in great part because he couldn’t stand the fact that President Barack Obama was key to getting the multilateral nuclear pact negotiated, signed, and working as intended. 

As if that wasn’t enough, we’ve got Trump’s incessant bragging and bullying, his self-pitying, his grandstanding, his tiresome demands for constant, abject adoration … and his unstoppable daily tsunami of lies, big ones and small, silly and conniving, eye-rolling and infuriating, probably more lies than all the other American presidents combined—a one-man disinformation machine pushing an extremist agenda the Republican Party has been sculpting for decades. 

An awful lot of Americans have been okay with all this. Including just about the entire Republican He’s-a-Crook-and-an Autocrat-So-What? Senate caucus. 

Trump had a chance to prove himself in a crisis to be the best helmsman who, he almost daily informs fans and foes alike, has ever steered the nation. Two months ago he could have called in a few of the world’s most-skilled medical professionals and had them brief him on what course to take and then taken it. Quick action might well have averted what we’re faced with now. Trump could have set up a virus task force instead of seeing the front-running Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden do it instead.  

Donald J. Trump could have shown he had what it takes to handle a crisis. But that would have required him not to be Trump. So he sought to cover his flanks, to lie and happy-talk the nation in hopes of keeping the stock market high, and to bolster his chances of another four years to use the power of his office to pad his pockets and rip off whoever crosses his path. 

No amount of hand sanitizer will wash the blood off his hands. 

Let’s just stop and review what a useless bunch of creatures Senate Republicans really are

Our first clue that Senate Republicans planned to be exactly useless for the entirety of the 116th Congress was when Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, backed by his caucus, conspicuously stood on the sidelines for weeks on end during what turned into the longest government shutdown in history, from Dec. 22, 2018—Jan. 25, 2019. Donald Trump alone manufactured that shutdown by demanding that nearly $6 billion in border wall funding be tucked into the budget deal, and McConnell decided he would simply let Nancy Pelosi and her newly elected majority tame Trump rather than help find a solution. 

In fact, McConnell seemed to have a good sense of exactly how useless Senate Republicans would be pretty early in Trump's administration. After the GOP-led Congress squandered most of 2017 on its Obamacare repeal debacle, Republicans just barely squeezed out their tax giveaway to the rich and powerful before the end of the year on December 20, 2017. By February 2018, McConnell was already selling his Senate majority as being "in the personnel business"—he just forgot to add the word, exclusively. And while it's undoubtedly true that McConnell's Senate has reshaped the federal courts by pushing through some 190 judges since Trump took office, it did so to the exclusion of almost all legislative work. Gloating over his chamber's unique lack of productivity, McConnell even embraced the nickname "Grim Reaper" for making his Senate the place where the people's business goes to die. McConnell has single-handedly refused to consider more than 400 bills passed by Pelosi’s House of Representatives.

Wanna restore sane leadership to the Senate? Give $3 right now to give Mitch the boot!

As for the one major piece of legislation Senate Republicans did manage to pass, that tax bill has now ballooned the deficit to nearly $1 trillion, hamstringing the government's ability to respond to a sudden jolt to the economy like the coronavirus. 

Speaking of which, McConnell's now running his "let Pelosi handle it" 2.0 play, tagging House Democrats with the sole responsibility of negotiating an economic response to the crisis with the White House. 

Simultaneous to that dereliction of duty, Republicans have stayed almost completely mum as Trump has spewed harmful lie upon harmful lie about the coronavirus. In fact, when Trump went to visit with the do-nothing GOP caucus Tuesday (because he refuses to meet with Pelosi), Trump told reporters the coronavirus would simply "go away, just stay calm," adding, "It's really working out. And a lot of good things are going to happen." No. Hard no. A lot of good things are not happening. But to date, Senate Republicans have taken a total pass on correcting any of Trump's disinformation campaign.

Instead, they seem pretty content to rest on their success of banding together to run a sham impeachment trial with zero witnesses and ultimately vote to keep the most corrupt president in American history in office.

And by single-handedly refusing to remove Trump, Senate Republicans can now proudly share the credit for the epic economic and public health crisis that is quickly rippling through the country now. Heckuva job, Mitchy. See you in November.

 

Trump too personally wounded by Pelosi to negotiate with her on coronavirus stimulus deal

After accusing Democrats of falsely hyping the coronavirus to hurt him, Donald Trump is now in need of Democratic votes for an economic stimulus package for the country. Indeed, GOP Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday the Senate would simply step aside and let House Speaker Nancy Pelosi negotiate a deal directly with the White House.

Unfortunately, Trump, master deal maker and negotiator savant, won't be involved in those talks, instead Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin will take the lead. According to NBC reporter Eamon Javers, Trump feels too personally wounded by impeachment and other interactions with Pelosi to get in a room with her and pound out a plan to help the country weather the coronavirus. "It doesn't seem like that would end well," Javers said of the thinking of White House aides about trying to get Trump and Pelosi together.

"What the White House would say is, that's Pelosi's fault," Javers explained, "because she ripped up his speech, she's been tough on him, she impeached him and therefore the president has every right to not want to be in a room with her."

So to review: Trump blamed Democrats for stoking concerns over the coronavirus; the stock market crashed because the coronavirus is a real thing; now Trump needs Democrats to dig himself out of a hole after he promised the virus was a nothingburger; but Trump's a little too fragile and spiteful to sit across the table from Pelosi in order to make a deal to help steer the nation through this global public health crisis.

That doesn't sound like someone who should be running the country, that sounds like someone who should be having a pretty epic time out until such time as he can play nice again with the other children.

Here’s the clip

YouTube Video

 

Republican leader puts out racist coronavirus tweet and gets demolished in the process

In lieu of doing their jobs to protect the American public, Republican Party officials are working very intensely to misinform the public, while also blaming China for COVID-19. One of the top GOP officials today is Republican House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California. You might remember his grotesque displays of fealty during the impeachment inquiry and trial of Donald Trump. If you know anything about Rep. McCarthy, you know that he will tow whatever party line Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump think up for him. And since the GOP’s brand these days is “Being racist assholes,” McCarthy decided on Monday to help out with the public health effort by tweeting out the government’s CDC.gov url along with this thinly veiled racist statement: “Everything you need to know about the Chinese coronavirus can be found on one, regularly-updated website:”

Fellow Californian and Democratic Rep. Katie Porter was justifiably pissed off at the leading GOP stooge.

Will stop spread of coronavirus: � washing your hands � staying home if you�re sick Won�t stop spread of coronavirus: � racism � xenophobia Delete this tweet, @GOPLeader. https://t.co/hd6VX3RuHo

— Rep. Katie Porter (@RepKatiePorter) March 10, 2020

The Trump administration and the Republican Party, having stripped down and rolled back Obama-era development of our CDC, and specifically our infectious disease research and response, is now trying to use the age-old defense that they shouldn’t be in trouble because it’s someone else who “started it.” Unfortunately, they have a racist base who will likely eat up this xenophobic handling of a public health crisis. But the Republican base is a minority in our country, and the majority of people know Rep. McCarthy is a craven prick. And the responses to his lack of leadership were fast and furious.

As one responder to McCarthy’s racism explains: this is just the same playbook we’ve seen out of these incompetent grifters for years now.

Racism is the GOP Trump card. Calling it a hoax didn�t work because people keep dying. Blaming it on Obama never got off the ground. We�re now at stage three: xenophobia.#CPACcoronavirus

— Chris Alexander (@hoos30) March 10, 2020

And here are some simple facts: 

w00f

— Liz Garbus (@lizgarbus) March 10, 2020

Our government is super racist: also they really suck at keeping US safe and prosperous.

— David Rothschild (@DavMicRot) March 10, 2020

Your swastika is showing � �

— ImpeachmentForDummies (@Canadiancentri2) March 10, 2020

Of course, maybe Kevin misspoke?

Kevin, you misspelled #CPACVirus also known as #TrumpVirus. Get your facts straight you racist asshole.

— Comfortably Numb (@YGalanter) March 10, 2020

Of course, here’s a side note reminder:

Vote for @KimMangone and dump treasonous �Steve� McCarthy! pic.twitter.com/RmSoPXT7kR

— Medusa (@MedusaSeesYou) March 10, 2020

And finally, the tragically comic reality of it all.

I live in the US. Is there a website for the American coronavirus? In particular is there info on the Republicans quarantined and potentially spreading it? pic.twitter.com/JSjWXiaVvU

— Rob Jackson (@muh_thoughts) March 10, 2020

And an honest piece of advice for the GOP Leader.

You're a racist, a coward, and a sycophant. Resign.

— Dr. Jack Brown (@DrGJackBrown) March 10, 2020