What Now?! – 3/29/2021

Dr. Deborah Birx, who served as the White House coronavirus response coordinator for President Trump, told CNN that the number of coronavirus deaths could have been “decreased substantially” if cities and states across the country had aggressively applied the lessons of the first surge toward mitigation last spring, potentially preventing the surges that followed. Said Birx: “I look at it this way. The first time we have an excuse. There were about a hundred thousand deaths that came from that original surge. All of the rest of them, in my mind, could have been mitigated or decreased substantially.”

“I got called by the President. It was very uncomfortable, very direct and very difficult to hear.” — Dr. Deborah Birx, telling CNN that then-President Donald Trump was very upset with an interview she gave on the coronavirus pandemic.

Birx is using a new CNN documentary to try to rehabilitate her reputation after serving as former President Trump’s coronavirus task force coordinator. She’s admitted that all U.S. deaths from the pandemic beyond the first 100,000 could have been mitigated with proper government policy. That’s more than 400,000 lives that could have been saved. And she hints that Trump was very upset with her after she gave an interview telling the deadly truth about the pandemic. She says Trump called her in a “very uncomfortable, very direct and very difficult” conversation. But that’s all she will divulge.

It was clear at the time — and it’s even clearer in retrospect — that Birx should have resigned. Trump was asking her to pursue policies that would ultimately lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans.

Dan Balz: “That Biden has become the vehicle for a second Great Society or modern-day New Deal is testament to a general leftward movement within the Democratic Party over the past half-dozen years, with Sanders acting as a principal catalyst in the rethinking.”

“It is probable as well that the coronavirus pandemic has played a significant role in providing the conditions that have allowed Biden to emerge as the advocate of changes on the scale that he is pushing. Pandemics are disruptive when they happen, and they can effect changes long after they have been tamed. Among those are shifts in economic patterns and needs, as the current pandemic has done.”

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai told the Wall Street Journal that the U.S. isn’t ready to lift tariffs on Chinese imports in the near future, but might be open to trade negotiations with Beijing. Said Tai: “I have heard people say, ‘Please just take these tariffs off.’ But yanking off tariffs could harm the economy unless the change is communicated in a way so that the actors in the economy can make adjustments.”

“China agreed to invest $400 billion in Iran over 25 years in exchange for a steady supply of oil to fuel its growing economy under a sweeping economic and security agreement signed on Saturday,” the New York Times reports. “The deal could deepen China’s influence in the Middle East and undercut American efforts to keep Iran isolated. But it was not immediately clear how much of the agreement can be implemented while the U.S. dispute with Iran over its nuclear program remains unresolved.”

“The US is concerned that China is flirting with the idea of seizing control of Taiwan as President Xi Jinping becomes more willing to take risks to boost his legacy,” the Financial Times reports. Said a senior U.S. official: “China appears to be moving from a period of being content with the status quo over Taiwan to a period in which they are more impatient and more prepared to test the limits and flirt with the idea of unification.”

“Twenty Chinese military aircraft entered Taiwan’s air defence identification zone on Friday, in the largest incursion yet reported by the island’s defence ministry and marking a dramatic escalation of tension across the Taiwan Strait,” Reuters reports.

Jonathan Bernstein: “The only real argument against D.C. statehood is partisanship: Why should Republicans vote to create a state that would put two new Democrats in the Senate? And let’s not pretend that Republicans could simply shift toward the center to try to compete there; the Democratic advantage is far too lopsided for that. It’s a Democratic city and would be a Democratic state, and I can’t blame Republicans for voting their party’s self-interest.”

“But the flip side of that is that Democrats can vote their own party’s self-interest — and, in this case, they would be on the side of democracy and justice. They should have done it in 2009 when they could defeat Senate filibusters; they should at least consider doing it now even if it forces them to limit the filibuster to get it done. And while they’re at it, they should do the same for Puerto Rico, where the partisan divisions are much less rigid. Assuming that citizens there want it.”

Democratic activists want the party to go all-in by including D.C. statehood in whatever voting rights bill they try to pass, the New York Times reports.

“Some backers of statehood say that they see the more comprehensive legislation as the most expedient route and that the current Democratic effort to protect minority voting rights would fall short if residents of the nation’s capital ultimately lacked representation.”

Big caveat: “The change in tactics is not endorsed by Senate backers of the legislation, who still see a separate statehood bill as the best approach for both statehood and the voting rights measure.”

Washington Post: “Something happened in Baltimore last year. The coronavirus pandemic hit, and State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby announced that the city would no longer prosecute drug possession, prostitution, trespassing and other minor charges, to keep people out of jail and limit the spread of the deadly virus.”

“And then crime went down in Baltimore. A lot. While violent crime and homicides skyrocketed in most other big American cities last year, violent crime in Baltimore dropped 20 percent from last March to this month, property crime decreased 36 percent, and there were 13 fewer homicides compared with the previous year.”

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) is the recipient of this year’s John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award for his vote to convict former President Donald Trump during his first impeachment trial “and his consistent and courageous defense of democracy,” NBC News reports.

“The New York attorney general’s office has partnered with Manhattan’s district attorney to investigate Stephen Bannon for the alleged fundraising scam that prompted his federal pardon in the waning hours of Donald Trump’s presidency,” the Washington Post reports.

“The move adds prosecutorial firepower to a criminal case widely seen as an attempted end-run around the former president’s bid to protect a political ally.”

New York Times: “Biden administration officials are anticipating the supply of coronavirus vaccine to outstrip U.S. demand by mid-May if not sooner.”

“Whether to keep, modify or redirect those orders is a question with significant implications, not just for the nation’s efforts to contain the virus but also for how soon the pandemic can be brought to an end.”

Axios: U.S. sets new vaccine record with 3.4 million doses administered in one day.

“Republican lawmakers blocked Medicaid expansion funding from reaching the Missouri House floor on Wednesday, posing a setback for the voter-approved plan to increase eligibility for the state health care program,” the Kansas City Star reports.

“The House Budget Committee voted along party lines not to pass a bill allowing Missouri to spend $130 million of state funds and $1.6 billion in federal money to pay for the program’s expansion. Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government picks up 90% of the tab on expanding Medicaid.”

“The Supreme Court is sitting on a petition in a Mississippi abortion case that could blow the lid off Roe v. Wade,” the Washington Examiner reports.

“The case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, has been before the court since September without a word from the justices. It has been considered at the court’s conferences eight times and each time left on the table. That likely means that fewer than four justices so far have voted to take up the case. Another possibility is that the court has already rejected the case and one of the conservative justices is working on a dissent that will be released in one of the court’s orders list.”

Will Bunch notes that Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signed the “hastily passed voter suppression law… surrounded by a half-dozen white men” and “in front of a painting of a plantation where more than 100 Black people had been enslaved.”

“The portrait of the plantation was the starkest reminder of Georgia’s history of white racism that spans slavery, Jim Crow segregation, the rebirth of the modern Ku Klux Klan, and today’s voter purges targeting Black and brown voters — but it wasn’t the only one.”

“At the very moment that Kemp was signing the law with his all-white posse, a Black female Georgia lawmaker — Rep. Park Cannon — who’d knocked on the governor’s door in the hopes of watching the bill signing was instead dragged away and arrested by state troopers, in a scene that probably had the Deep South’s racist sheriffs of yesteryear like Bull Connor or Jim Clark smiling in whatever fiery hellhole they now inhabit.”

President Biden criticized a Georgia law imposing restrictions on voting and urged Congress to act on sweeping voting rights legislation, the Washington Post reports. Said Biden: “This is Jim Crow in the 21st Century. It must end. We have a moral and Constitutional obligation to act.”

“It has nothing to do with fairness, nothing to do with decency. They passed the law saying you can’t provide water for people standing in line while they’re waiting to vote? You don’t need anything else to know that this is nothing but punitive, designed to keep people from voting. You can’t provide water for people about to vote? Give me a break.” — President Joe Biden, quoted by Politico, on Georgia’s new voting law.

Boston Globe: “The 91st MLB All-Star Game is scheduled to be played in Atlanta this July. But on Thursday, in the wake of voting-restriction legislation signed into law by the Georgia governor, the executive director of the MLB Players Association said the players are ready to discuss moving their annual midsummer exhibition out of Georgia.”

Georgia’s new voting law is 98 pages and alters virtually every facet of the state’s elections. Georgia Public Broadcasting has a must-read explainer on everything it does, from controversial absentee ballot changes to a lot of things you’ve never heard of.

CNN: It’s now illegal in Georgia to give food and water to voters in line.

Recode: “Amazon has long been at odds with Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren over their criticisms of the company’s labor and business practices. But the discord reached a new height last week when Amazon aggressively went after both on Twitter in an unusual attack for a large corporation.”

“Turns out that Amazon leaders were following a broad mandate from the very top of the company: Fight back.”

“Recode has learned that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos expressed dissatisfaction in recent weeks that company officials weren’t more aggressive in how they pushed back against criticisms of the company that he and other leaders deem inaccurate or misleading. What followed was a series of snarky and aggressive tweets that ended up fueling their own media cycles.”

“If Democrats eliminate the filibuster, there is one senator who would have an outsized impact in the 50-50 chamber on issues that could reshape the nation’s future: infrastructure, immigration, gun laws and voting rights. That senator is Joe Manchin III of West Virginia,” the New York Times reports.

“There is also a senator whose opposition to eliminating the filibuster is a significant reason it may never happen. That senator, too, is Mr. Manchin.”

Said Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE): “He should want to get rid of the filibuster because he suddenly becomes the most powerful person in this place — he’s the 50th vote on everything.”

“Senate Republicans are adamant that Chuck Schumer is maneuvering toward one endgame: Killing the filibuster. But Schumer’s own Democratic colleagues aren’t as confident,” Politico reports.

“The reality is more complicated. Schumer is an expert at channeling the feelings of his caucus, and Democratic senators have no clear agreement on the topic. A source close to Schumer said that ‘when he says they’ll have a discussion as a caucus and everything is on the table, he means it.’”

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

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