Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

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

When is the last time someone told you to calm down, and it worked?

I’m not seeing a lot of raised hands.

Having someone tell us we’re overreacting is annoying and condescending. Infuriating, even. It makes you want to blind them with the whites of your eyes as you lean in menacingly close and yell, “No, you calm down,” preferably in public. (Or maybe that’s just me.) The point is that telling us not to feel what we’re feeling seldom works, and often makes it worse because now we’re angry, too, and that is not a good look on anyone.

I want you not to panic about the novel coronavirus, but I know telling you not to panic isn’t helpful. Too much is happening — and not happening — for us to pretend this is a normal March. You might be scared, and why not? Every news update feels like another cautionary tale.

Change is all around us. The NCAA announced that its basketball tournaments would go on but with no fans in the arenas. Even if you’ve never cared about the NCAA tournaments, it’s impossible to hear that and not think something big is happening. All around the country, concerts, conferences and sporting events are being canceled. So, avoid large gatherings for now.

The president of the United States continues to falsely downplay this health crisis. Fortunately, many state and local leaders are refusing to play along. They are helping us understand there are things we can do in this frightening time to protect ourselves and others. This is the America I love.

We can’t say this enough: Wash your hands regularly, and whenever possible, use soap and water. Public health experts tell us we should do this every time for at least 20 seconds. They recommend singing “Happy Birthday,” twice, before rinsing.

There are plenty of other songs, of course, and whichever one keeps you washing is the one you should be singing. In recent days, I’ve been belting out Ethel Merman’s Still Got My Health. Sing it with me:

The hip that I shake doesn’t make people stare,

But I got such health, what do I care?

The sight of my props never stops a thoroughfare,

But I still got my health, so what do I care?

No matter how often we wash our hands, we should not touch our faces, especially when we’re out in public. This sounds simple enough until you think of all the times you’ve pulled to a stop in traffic and watched the driver in the next lane excavating his nostrils.

That would never be you, I want to make clear, but do think about that guy’s hand touching the door handle you’re about to grab. As I explained to my last class of students before the campus closed down, your face is full of portals. I repeated this to them every 10 minutes or so, after providing another update on how many of them had just touched their eyes, their noses, their mouths. Once a mom…

Because of the coronavirus outbreak, many elderly poll workers here in Ohio are opting not to work on Election Day. They are smart to avoid interacting with the public, as their immune systems aren’t as strong as they used to be.

Our secretary of state is calling for replacement workers for our March 17 primary election. Fortunately, Gov. Mike DeWine had asked that all colleges and universities close down and turn to online teaching for a few weeks. Suddenly, thousands of healthy young people are no longer attending classes. Perfect poll workers! What a great way for them to witness firsthand how democracy works and help voting be an efficient and fair process — and a safe one, too, if they remind voters to wash their hands after touching the voting machines.

That’s the other thing we can do right now: Be signs of hope.

Many hourly wage earners — such as clerks, cashiers, hospital aides and restaurant workers — have little or no paid sick leave. They are increasingly at risk of contracting the virus and spreading it because they cannot afford to stay home.

Those lucky enough to hunker down can advocate for people like them. Call and write your members of Congress, daily, and push them to take care of all Americans as we ride out this medical emergency. It’s an election year. Make them fear you.

We need one another. If we act like it, more of us are going to be OK.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University’s school of journalism. She is the author of two non-fiction books, including …and His Lovely Wife, which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. Her novel, The Daughters of Erietown, will be published by Random House in spring 2020. To find out more about Connie Schultz (schultz.connie@gmail.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany was forced to defend President Donald Trump's recent attacks on MSNBC host Joe Scarborough on Tuesday, an unenviable task she nevertheless intentionally signed up for. She desperately tried to divert the attention back to Scarborough — without engaging in the president's conspiracy theorizing — but offered no credible defense of the president's conduct.

Trump has been spreading the debunked theory that Scarborough killed a staffer in 2001 while he was in Congress, even though it was determined she died of natural causes. The staffer's widower wrote a released a letter on Tuesday pleading with Twitter to take down the president's offensive tweets promoting the thoery. He said he was "angry," "frustrated," and "grieved" by the president's promotion of the harmful allegations. Trump is perverting his late wife's memory, he said, and he fears her niece and nephews will encounter these attacks.When asked about the letter, McEnany said she wasn't sure if the president had seen it. But she said their "hearts" are with the woman's family "at this time." It was a deeply ironic comment because the only particularly traumatizing thing about "this time" for the family is the president's attacks, which come nearly two decades after the woman's death.

McEnany refused to offer any explanation of Trump's comments and instead redirected reporters to a clip of Scarborough on Don Imus's radio show in 2003. In that show, Imus made a tasteless joke obliquely referring to the death, and Scarborough laughed at it briefly.

"Why is the president making these unfounded allegations?" asked ABC News' Jonathan Karl. "I mean, this is pretty nuts, isn't it? The president is accusing someone of possible murder. The family is pleading with the president to please stop unfounded conspiracy theories. Why is he doing it?""The president said this morning, this is not an original Trump thought. And it is not," she said, bringing up the Imus clip. But she made no mention of why the president is bringing up the issue 17 years later and with a much larger platform.

When pressed further on the president's conduct, she again diverted blame to Scarborough, saying his morning show unfairly criticizes the president. But again, she offered no substantive defense of Trump.

After McEnany had moved on, PBS reporter Yamiche Alcindor brought it up again: "Why won't the president give this widower peace and stop tweeting about the conspiracy theory involving his wife?"

McEnany said she had already answered the question, which she hadn't, and said the onus is on Scarborough to explain the Imus clip."The widower is talking specifically about the president!" Alcindor shot back. But McEnany called on Chanel Rion, with the aggressively pro-Trump outlet OAN, who changed the subject to conspiracy theories about the origins of the Russia investigation.

"Are you not going to answer that?" Alcindor called out, still trying to get a substantive response to her question, but Rion spoke over her.

At the end of the briefing, another reporter asked whether Trump was looking for any actual law enforcement steps be taken in response to his conspiracy theory. But McEnany had nothing to add, and simply told people to listen to the Imus clip again. As she hurried out of the briefing room, a reporter asked if Trump would stop promoting the theory — but she left without answering.

Watch the exchange about Klausutis, which begins at 48:45.