What Now?! – March 28, 2020

“President Trump is a commander in chief dealing with a coronavirus outbreak in which many difficult decisions have to be made. And on Friday, he seemed to suggest some of those decisions could be made according to who has run afoul of him personally,” the Washington Postreports.

“Trump disclosed that he has told Vice President Pence, who is leading the coronavirus task force, not to call the governors of Michigan and Washington state because those governors had been critical of Trump and the federal response.”

Said Trump: “When they’re not appreciative to me, they’re not appreciative to the Army Corps, they’re not appreciative to FEMA, it’s not right.”

“Congress gave final approval on Friday to the largest economic stimulus package in modern American history, a $2 trillion measure designed to respond to the coronavirus pandemic and deliver direct payments and jobless benefits for individuals, money for states and a huge bailout fund for businesses battered by the crisis,” the New York Times reports.

“The House approved the measure by voice vote, after leaders in both parties deflected an effort by Rep. Thomas Massie, a Kentucky Republican with a penchant for using procedural maneuvers to try to block legislation, to force recorded vote requiring lawmakers to register their positions individually. It now heads to President Trump’s desk, where he is expected to sign it.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi not invited to today’s White House signing ceremony for the $2.2 trillion economic relief package, CNN reports. President Trump and Pelosi have not spoken in more than five months. No other Democrat was invited either.

Speaking with Sean Hannity on Fox News, President Trump again minimized the impact of the global coronavirus pandemic, casting doubt on the need for tens of thousands of ventilators for hospitals responding to the crisis, Politico reports.

Said Trump: “I have a feeling that a lot of the numbers that are being said in some areas are just bigger than they’re going to be. I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators. You go into major hospitals sometimes, and they’ll have two ventilators. And now all of a sudden they’re saying, ‘Can we order 30,000 ventilators?’”

Jonathan Bernstein: “Look: I’ve tried to be slow to criticize the substance of the administration’s reaction to the unfolding disaster. I’ve pointed out more than once that these situations are difficult, that experts themselves often disagree on the correct steps to take, and that perfection is an unfair standard by which to judge any president. I could add that while the U.S. has been hard hit, it’s far from the only nation where the coronavirus has spread. I’ve been tough on Trump mainly for his crisis communications, which are easier to judge on face value than something like getting tests into the field, and on the bureaucratic structure of his response.”

“But every time he does something like this, it lends support to the idea that he and his closest aides are butchering the response out of sheer incompetence, even as the few qualified experts involved are desperately trying to drag them back on course.”

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) said his state will not be back to normal by Easter, bucking President Trump’s suggestion that the country could loosen social distancing guidelines by the April 12 holiday amid the coronavirus pandemic, Politico reports.

Said Baker: “The information we’re getting from public health experts and from health care providers here in Massachusetts — yeah, no. We’re not going to be up and running by Easter, no.”

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said she had no plans to issue a stay at home or shelter-in-place order any time soon, the Montgomery Advertiser reports.

Said Ivey: “Y’all, we are not Louisiana, we are not New York State, we are not California. Right now is not the time to order people to shelter in place.”

new tool from the University of Washington projects when the coronavirus outbreak will peak in each of the 50 states and how bad it’ll get.

Of course, these are all projections and things could change dramatically, such as when modifications to social distancing measures are made.

“The U.S. mortgage finance system could collapse if the Federal Reserve doesn’t step in with emergency loans to offset a coming wave of missed payments from borrowers crippled by the coronavirus pandemic,” Politico reports.

“Congress did not include relief for the mortgage industry in its $2 trillion rescue package — even as lawmakers required mortgage companies to allow homeowners up to a year’s delay in making payments on federally backed loans.”

“Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) suggested Friday that a growing rift with the White House is affecting shipments of medical supplies to Michigan amid exponential growth in confirmed coronavirus cases,” Crain’s Detroit Business reports.

Said Whitmer: “When the federal government told us that we needed to go it ourselves, we started procuring every item we could get our hands on. What I’ve gotten back is that vendors with whom we had contracts are now being told not to send stuff here to Michigan.”

“Whitmer didn’t say who has told vendors to stop sending medical supplies to the state, but strongly implied the order came from President Trump’s administration.”

British Prime Minister Johnson has tested positive for coronavirus, the BBC reports. “His symptoms are mild and he will continue to lead the government response to the virus while he self-isolates, a spokesman says.”

Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-SC) has tested positive for coronavirus, becoming the fourth member of Congress to contract the virus, WCBD reports.

Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) announced that he tested positive for COVID-19, the fifth member of Congress to do so. “My symptoms are mild, and I will continue serving Pennsylvania’s 16th District from home until I fully recover.”

“The White House had been preparing on Wednesday to announce amid an escalating pandemic that a joint venture between General Motors and Ventec Life Systems would begin producing as many as 80,000 desperately needed ventilators when word suddenly came down that the announcement was off,” the New York Times reports.

“The decision to cancel the announcement, according to government officials, came after the Federal Emergency Management Agency said it needed more time to assess whether the estimated cost was prohibitive — more than $1 billion.”

Then, as you saw above, Trump went on Hannity and questioned the need for the ventilators. Then on Friday morning, he did an about face, seemingly threatened to order — or perhaps did order — General Motors and Ford to start making ventilators to help combat the coronavirus outbreak,” the Washington Post reports.

Bloomberg: “The Twitter missives are a remarkable turnabout from the night before, when Trump told Fox News he wasn’t invoking the Cold War-era Defense Production Act to compel manufacturers to make ventilators because companies including GM had already stepped up.”

According to a statement from the White House Friday afternoon, Trump has not allegedly invoked the Defense Production Act to order GM to produce the ventilators. But who the fuck knows if that is true, since Trump has lied at least five times over the past two weeks on the issue of whether he had invoked the DPA.

Washington Post: “Nearly 90 percent of U.S. mayors who responded to a national survey on coronavirus preparedness said they lack sufficient tests kits, face masks and other protective equipment for their emergency responders and medical workers, while 85 percent said they do not have enough ventilators for their hospitals — critical shortages that could lead cities and towns to be quickly overwhelmed should the virus spread through their communities.”

Washington Post: “In recent days, a growing contingent of Trump supporters have pushed the narrative that health experts are part of a deep-state plot to hurt Trump’s reelection efforts by damaging the economy and keeping the United States shut down as long as possible. Trump himself pushed this idea in the early days of the outbreak, calling warnings on coronavirus a kind of ‘hoax’ meant to undermine him.”

“The notion is deeply troubling, say leading health experts, because what the country does next and how many people die depend largely on what evidence U.S. leaders and the public use to inform their decisions. Epidemiologists worry their research — intended to avert massive deaths in situations exactly like this pandemic — will be dismissed by federal leaders when it is needed most.”

“Breaking news: Congressman Massie has tested positive for being an asshole. He must be quarantined to prevent the spread of his massive stupidity.”

— Former Secretary of State John Kerry, on Twitter, in response to Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) stalling House approval of the $2.2 trillion economic relief package.

Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) announced in a series of tweets that he will hold up the $2.2 trillion economic relief bill, refusing to back down in spite of backlash from President Trump. Unfortunately for him, Speaker Pelosi thwarted him with her mastery of parliamentary procedure and was able to get the bill passed via a voice vote.

Trump called him a “third-rate Grandstander” and urged Kentucky voters to “throw Massie out of Republican Party!”

Washington Post: “During his seven years in Congress, Rep. Thomas Massie has established a reputation as a uniquely irascible congressional gadfly — one who is frequently at odds with his own party’s leadership, rarely votes for major bills negotiated with Democrats, and, to make an ideological point, is willing to use the House rule book to inconvenience his colleagues.”

“Now, with the coronavirus pandemic threatening the nation, many believe Massie has gone well beyond inconvenience into threatening the health — and potentially the lives — of lawmakers and staff.”

Andrew Sullivan: “Of course, there was another way available from the get-go. He could have immediately adopted a wartime presidential posture and announced an emergency response to the threat from China. From January on, he could have deployed the government’s ultimate power to get American manufacturers to produce ventilators, masks, and tests on demand, gotten the military to set up field hospitals, and announced — and even obeyed — a partisan cease-fire because of the severity of the crisis. And he could have added another layer to this by giving a speech on the danger of over-relying on China to produce basic goods, especially those essential for Americans’ health. Then a stark and clear and unwavering stance on social distancing, to buy time. If he needed a photo op, he could have donned a hazmat suit and visited patients, like his crush, Vladimir Putin, just did.”

“Yes, I know this is Captain Hindsight speaking. But a man like Steve Bannon understood what this crisis could do for a populist political movement. Trump didn’t. Because, as is now apparent, he was only interested in the movement in as much as it helped him gain fame and power — or jibed with his prejudices.”

“Trump’s failure to grasp the politics of coronavirus is, I’d argue, a microcosm of his entire administration. As with COVID-19, Trump had so many potential advantages at the beginning, after his surprise victory. Imagine if he’d started his presidency with a massive infrastructure spending bill, followed by an immigration compromise that would have funded his wall, beefed up enforcement, but also gave security to the Dreamers. Imagine if his tax bill had been geared to help working families, rather than the superrich, or that he promised to change Obamacare by expanding it. He would have had a chance to be a transformative president.”

“But to do that, he would have had to have been someone other than himself.”

David Freedlander: “Three days later, facing (to use a favorite de Blasio-ism) ‘a very different reality,’ including a growing outcry from parents and from his own public-health officials, some of whom threatened to quit if he didn’t shutter schools and start taking the outbreak more seriously, New York City public schools were officially closed, probably for the rest of the school year.”

“Shortly thereafter, he declined to cancel St. Patrick’s Day parade and then did. He resisted calls to cancel regular street sweeping and then did. He had a photo op at a 311 call center, where he told a caller who had just returned from Italy that she did not need to self-quarantine, advice that forced 311 to actually call the woman back and tell her to stay inside for 14 days. The mayor touted the city’s new, wide-scale testing capacity, only to have his Health Department announce that only hospitalized patients should be tested. He tweeted at Elon Musk to supply the city with ventilators. When a New York Times reporter wrote of his own gut-wrenching story about contracting COVID-19 and being unable to get help, a top mayoral aide chastised him online for seeking help at all rather than just getting better at home. And the mayor himself told a radio host that people who don’t display symptoms can’t transmit the disease, an assertion that contradicts information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

David Corn: “For a narcissist, the most immediate personal need is the most important one. So Trump viewed the burgeoning crisis as a threat to him, not the nation, and he took the steps he usually does in so many circumstances: He denied the threat, claimed he knew better than the experts, and relied on bluster and BS. He did all that instead of adopting early measures that could have slowed the transmission of the virus.”

“But beyond the narcissism, two other fundamental elements of Trump’s character are likely shaping his response: his obsession with revenge and his sense of fatalism. And both are exceedingly dangerous for the American public.”

Peter Werner: “For his entire adult life, and for his entire presidency, Donald Trump has created his own alternate reality, complete with his own alternate set of facts. He has shown himself to be erratic, impulsive, narcissistic, vindictive, cruel, mendacious, and devoid of empathy. None of that is new.”

“But we’re now entering the most dangerous phase of the Trump presidency. The pain and hardship that the United States is only beginning to experience stem from a crisis that the president is utterly unsuited to deal with, either intellectually or temperamentally. When things were going relatively well, the nation could more easily absorb the costs of Trump’s psychological and moral distortions and disfigurements. But those days are behind us. The coronavirus pandemic has created the conditions that can catalyze a destructive set of responses from an individual with Trump’s characterological defects and disordered personality.”

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

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