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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

If Mitt Romney’s purpose in traveling abroad this summer was to prove his credentials as a potential world leader, the verdict is mixed at best. Neither his tendency to utter bizarre insults nor his shallow, ideological approach to policy inspired much confidence, although he managed to garner support from Israel’s right-wing prime minister and an eccentric former leader in Poland. (Our allies in the United Kingdom may never want to hear from him again.)

On the trip’s final leg, the world saw the most unattractive side of the Romney campaign when the traveling press secretary loudly told reporters to “kiss my ass” and “shove it” in a display of the attitude that trickles down from the top.

Contempt toward the press is an important aspect of this attitude. For most of the campaign so far, Romney has pursued a media strategy that has become increasingly typical of Republican presidential candidates: Speak with Fox News and avoid the rest of the national press corps. That is because Fox journalists (an oxymoron?) are far less likely to ask questions that the candidate doesn’t wish to answer, such as the inquiries shouted at Romney in Warsaw on Tuesday.

Why were they shouting at him? Because during the entire trip, he had essentially refused to engage with reporters at all.

According to a CNN transcript, American reporters were calling out questions in frustration as Romney walked away at a public plaza near Poland’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, when press secretary Rick Gorka confronted them.

CNN: “Governor Romney are you concerned about some of the mishaps of your trip?
NYT: “Governor Romney do you have a statement for the Palestinians?
Washington Post: “What about your gaffes?
NYT: “Governor Romney do you feel that your gaffes have overshadowed your foreign trip?”
CNN: “Governor Romney just a few questions sir, you haven’t taken but three questions on this trip from the press!
Gorka: “Show some respect”
NYT: “We haven’t had another chance to ask a question…”
Gorka: “Kiss my ass. This is a holy site for the Polish people. Show some respect.”

Within moments, Gorka told Jonathan Martin, a reporter for Politico, to “shove it.”

Although Gorka called reporters later to apologize, his blustering attitude revealed the Romney campaign’s fury over the negative fallout from the trip – and its arrogance toward the press, which it regards as an obstacle to its ambitions.

The emerging truth about the man who will soon accept the Republican presidential nomination is that – like Sarah Palin – his handlers cannot trust him to cope with unscripted questions. That was particularly true on this trip, where his plenteous gaffes would only have multiplied if anyone had been able to ask a tough question. And as with Palin, the difficult task faced by the Republican campaign is to protect Romney from the press scrutiny that is so essential to our process, and so damaging to his prospects.

Poll: Most Parents Oppose Rapid School Reopening

Numerous local school systems around the country are plowing ahead with plans to resume in-person instruction despite growing evidence that children are just as capable of spreading the coronavirus as adults.

Classes were set to begin on Monday in Baker County, Florida. Masks for students will be optional, not required. "It looks like it's back to normal this morning, honestly," a local television reporter observed as parents dropped their kids off in the morning. Many students wore no face coverings.

The Trump administration and the GOP have pushed for full reopening of schools for months."Schools in our country should be opened ASAP," Donald Trump tweeted in May. "Much very good information now available."

"SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!" he reiterated on July 6.

"The science and data is clear: children can be safe in schools this fall, and they must be in school this fall," demanded Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) on Aug. 1.

"I believe our schools can, and should rise to the occasion of re-opening for in-person education this fall," agreed Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) two days later.

"The CDC and Academy of Pediatrics agree: We can safely get students back in classrooms," tweeted House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) last Tuesday.

But while Scalise, Mike Pence, and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have all cited the American Academy of Pediatrics in their arguments for reopening, a new study by the group and the Children's Hospital Association raises red flags about how safe that will be.

Their report found 338,982 reported coronavirus cases in children as of July 30 in the United States. Between July 16 and July 30, the nation saw a 40% increase — 97,078 new infected children.

Last week, a high school student in an Atlanta suburb posted a photo online showing few students wearing masks in a crowded school hallway. Since that time, at least six students and three adult employees in the school have reportedly contracted the coronavirus, and the school temporarily has switched to online classes.

Another Georgia school district has already seen at least 13 students and staff members test positive since reopening a week ago.

A recent study in South Korea found that children aged ten and older spread the coronavirus at the same rates adults do. A separate study in Chicago suggested young kids might also be effective spreaders.

These contradict the false claims made by Trump and his administration that kids have an "amazing" near immunity to COVID-19.

"If you look at children, children are almost — and I would almost say definitely, but almost immune from this disease, so few. They've got stronger, hard to believe, and I don't know how you feel about it, but they have much stronger immune systems than we do somehow for this," Trump told Fox News on Wednesday.

"You got to open the schools. They have a stronger immune system even than you have or I have," he told Barstool Sports on July 23. "It's amazing. You look at the percentage, it's a tiny percentage of one percent. And in that one case, I mean, I looked at a couple of cases. If you have diabetes, if you have, you know, problems with something, but the kids are in great shape." Children have made up nearly nine percent of all cases, even with schools mostly closed.

And DeVos incorrectly said in a July 16 interview, "More and more studies show that kids are actually stoppers of the disease and they don't get it and transmit it themselves."

In early July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines for how schools could operate more safely during the pandemic.

Trump publicly ridiculed the guidelines, dismissing them as "very tough & expensive" and "very impractical."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.