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

Tag: coronavirus response

Press Predictions Of Biden's 'Doom' Are Just Clouds Of Donkey Dust

I’ve been bemused by what I’ve called the Cult of the Presidency since long before it became my job to write about it. To an awful lot of people, the President of the United States is held personally responsible for things he can’t do a blessed thing about, from the price of Cocoa Puffs to the mutation of viruses. And too rarely given credit for things he’s done right.

Given the onset of climate change, it won’t be long before we’re blaming the White House for the weather.

But hey, it comes with the territory. A person would have to be downright mad with ambition to want the job.

That said, I’ve always felt warmly toward Joe Biden, if for no other reason than his resemblance to my late father, another Irish guy with a great smile and a fondness for the word “malarkey.” He also favored the phrase “donkey dust,” basically “nonsense.”

Something else that comes with the presidency is the attention of the nation’s esteemed Washington press clique. To find a group more prone to insider gossip and groupthink, one would have to be transported back to a high school lunchroom.

By way of historical context, Eric Boehlert provides the following example of press clique conventional wisdom on his Press Run website: “A year into his presidency, President [Blank] faces a polarized nation and souring public assessments of his efforts to change Washington, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.”

The year was 2010, the president, Barack Obama. Pundits predicted that the Ebola virus would ravage the nation and Obamacare would enter a demographic death spiral. Neither happened. So, it’s best to keep things in perspective when CNN asks “Is Biden’s Presidency Doomed?”

Probably not.

That said, Covid continues to ravage the nation, affecting every aspect of American life from education to inflation—no thanks to red state Republicans’ conversion to a pro-virus death cult. Hospitals are overwhelmed with the sick and dying, and what are they upset about? Face masks, Dr. Fauci.

Then too, congressional Democrats and the White House wasted months pretending that a 51-50 advantage in the Senate would allow the passage of “Build Back Better”—sweeping legislation few voters understood.

Altogether elsewhere, Vladimir Putin appears determined to occupy Ukraine, driving a wedge between the US and our NATO allies.

Of the above crises, only the time and political capital wasted pursuing “progressive” daydreams can be laid at Biden’s feet. Not only was Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WVV) never going to give Bernie Sanders’s supporters what they wanted, his constituents don’t want him to. West Virginia voted for Donald Trump over Joe Biden by 69 percent to 30 percent -- more than two to one.

“You don’t have to be a genius to succeed in politics,” the late Robert F. Kennedy told a friend of mine. “But you do need to be able to count.”

Biden wouldn’t be the first president to overrate his personal charm and persuasive skills. It’s been known to happen.

Left out of many negative assessments of Biden’s first year, however, was the extraordinary success of his economic policies. Thanks in large part to the fiscal stimulus plan he signed into law last March, unemployment has declined to 3.9 percent, almost where it was pre-Covid.

Since Biden’s inauguration, the U.S. economy has generated more than six million new jobs — an extraordinary achievement. Workers’ wages have risen as well. For all the wailing and gnashing of teeth about high gasoline prices and seven percent inflation, both outside the president’s control, and both likely to be brought under control after Covid recedes, the president’s economic record could hardly be stronger.

That said, yes Biden’s polling numbers fell considerably beginning in August 2021, in seeming reaction to the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan. (Not that anybody wants to go back.) But that hardly makes him an outlier, notes Tim Noah in The New Republic: “That also happened to Trump, Obama, Clinton, Reagan, and Carter.”

In short, the post-honeymoon phase of the presidency tends to be rough on everybody. Noah also notes that Washington media gossip has little bearing on a president’s political success: “Time famously pronounced Clinton ‘The Incredible Shrinking President’ on a June 1993 cover.”

Three years later, Clinton was re-elected easily despite the press clique’s obsession with the make-believe “Whitewater” scandal.

George W. Bush was saved from sinking polls during his first year by the surge in patriotism following the 9/11 terror attacks, only to plunge to historic lows after his disastrous Iraq invasion. In case you’ve forgotten, the Washington media led cheers, dressed up in fatigues, and followed the troops into battle.

Chances are Joe Biden hasn’t yet encountered whatever it is that will determine his administration’s place in history. But it’s clear that poll numbers won’t define it. Those fall under the heading of what my father would have called “donkey dust.”

Resolute Biden Touts Achievements, Promises To Reconnect With Voters

Washington (AFP) - Joe Biden sought to reset his presidency in a marathon press conference Wednesday, vowing to reconnect with voters in his second year and touting what he said were his unprecedented successes.

"Can you think of any other president that's done as much in one year?" Biden asked, ticking off the epic struggle against Covid-19 and trillions of dollars in government funding to save the US economy from pandemic fallout.

"I don't think there's been much on any incoming president's plate that's been a bigger menu than the plate I had given to me," the Democrat said. "The fact of the matter is, we got a lot done."

Speaking on the eve of the anniversary of his inauguration on January 20, 2021, Biden held only the second White House press conference of his presidency -- then surprised many by taking questions for almost two full hours.

At various times combative, joking and meandering into thoughtful musings on everything from the workings of Vladimir Putin's mind to Republican opponents, Biden brushed off criticism over his handling of the pandemic and soaring inflation.

Asked about his approval ratings, which have sunk into the low 40 percent area, Biden was curt.

"I don't believe the polls," he said.

Biden did acknowledge missteps in the 12 months since he took over from Donald Trump, saying it had been "a year of challenges."

These included that he "didn't anticipate" the ferocity of Republican obstruction to his agenda in Congress. On Covid testing capabilities, which continue to struggle to meet demand, he said "we should have done it quicker."

Biden likewise said he understood "frustration" over steadily rising prices, which he blamed on Covid-related supply chain issues.

Fighting inflation will be "hard and take a lot of work."

"It's going to be painful for a lot of people," he said, noting that high prices were being felt "at the gas pump, the grocery stores and elsewhere."

Ukraine Warning

On one of the most traumatic episodes of his presidency -- the chaotic and rushed final withdrawal from the 20-year long Afghanistan war -- Biden said flatly: "I make no apologies."

"There was no way to get out of Afghanistan after 29 years easily," he declared.

The press conference, which defied the widely shared image of Biden as shrinking from contact with the media, focused especially heavily on the looming crisis in Ukraine, where the United States is leading Western efforts to find a diplomatic solution to Russia's military posturing on the border.

Biden said he was ready to meet with Putin and bluntly warned the Kremlin leader that an attack on Ukraine would be "a disaster" for Russia.

However, Biden caused confusion when he appeared to suggest that a small-scale attack by the Russians would prompt much less pushback from the West. The White House quickly issued a statement clarifying that what he meant was that any military invasion would prompt a "severe" response, while non-military aggression, like paramilitary attacks, would be met with a "reciprocal" response.

'Getting Out More Often'

With a State of the Union speech to Congress set for March 1, Biden faces a rapidly diminishing period in which he can engineer a strategy to fight off a Republican comeback at midterm congressional elections this November.

Republicans are forecast to crush his party and take control of the legislature. That risks bringing two years of complete obstruction from Congress, likely including threats of impeachment and a slew of aggressive committee probes.

Trump, who continues to perpetuate the lie that he beat Biden in 2020 and seeks to undermine Americans' faith in their election system, is eyeing a possible attempt at another run at the White House in 2024.

Biden confirmed he wants to run for reelection with Kamala Harris as his vice president again. And he said that while Democrats proved unable to use their razor-thin congressional majority to pass two big priorities -- the Build Back Better social spending bill and election law reforms -- they could instead settle for passing "big chunks" of the failed legislation.

Above all, Biden emphasized his desire to leave the confines of the White House after a year featuring a decidedly light travel schedule.

"Number one: I am getting out of this place more often. I am going to go out and talk to the public," he said.

"I find myself in a situation where I don't get a chance to look people in the eye, both because of Covid and the situation in Washington," he said, describing how he wanted to "connect with people, let them take a measure of my sincerity."

Fauci: Hospitals Jeopardized By Overwhelming Rise In Omicron Infections

By Kanishka Singh

(Reuters) -Top U.S. infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said there was still a danger of a surge in hospitalization due to a large number of coronavirus cases even as early data suggests the Omicron COVID-19 variant is less severe.

"The only difficulty is that if you have so many cases, even if the rate of hospitalization is lower with Omicron than it is with Delta, there is still the danger that you will have a surging of hospitalizations that might stress the healthcare system," Fauci said in an interview on Sunday with CNN.

The Omicron variant was estimated to be 58.6 percent of the coronavirus variants circulating in the United States as of December 25, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The sudden arrival of Omicron has brought record-setting case counts to countries around the world and dampened New Year festivities around the world..

"There will certainly be a lot more cases because this is a much more transmissible virus than Delta is," Fauci said on CNN.

However, "It looks, in fact, that it [Omicron] might be less severe, at least from data that we've gathered from South Africa, from the UK and even some from preliminary data from here in the United States," Fauci said.

Fauci added that the CDC will soon be coming out with a clarification on whether people with COVID-19 should test negative to leave isolation, after confusion last week over guidance that would let people leave after five days without symptoms.

The CDC had reduced the recommended isolation period for people with asymptomatic COVID to five days, down from 10. The policy does not require testing to confirm that a person is no longer infectious before they go back to work or socialize, causing some experts to raise questions.

"You're right. There has been some concern about why we don't ask people at that five-day period to get tested. That is something that is now under consideration", Fauci told ABC News in a separate interview on Sunday. "I think we're going to be hearing more about that in the next day or so from the CDC."

U.S. authorities registered at least 346,869 new coronavirus on Saturday, according to a Reuters tally. The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 rose by at least 377 to 828,562.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Mark Porter)

Ugly Truth: Spreading Covid-19 Is Now The Top Republican Priority

Reprinted with permission from PressRun

Waging war on the country’s well-being, the GOP, fueled by the right-wing media, has set its sights on Covid nihilism. And they’re doing it in the name of partisan warfare.

Republican members in the House and Senate were scheming to shut down the federal government to ensure that workers won’t have to comply with vaccination mandates put in place to help slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus. The plot came as health officials warn that the new Omicron Covid-19 variant could be highly be contagious and dangerous to Americans.

At least four red states — Florida, Iowa, Kansas and Tennessee — have begun extending unemployment benefits to workers who were fired or who quit over their employers’ requirement that everyone get vaccinated. (Typically, only workers are who laid off through no fault of their own are eligible for benefits.) It’s a way for the GOP to tighten its bond with anti-vaxxer voters and to show solidarity with those who are working hard to perpetuate the pandemic.

TV doctor Mehmet Oz made headlines this week when he declared his candidacy for next year’s Pennsylvania Senate race. (Oz has not lived in the Keystone State since the 1980’s.) He’s likely most infamous for his Fox News appearance at the outset of the pandemic when he urged schools be reopened immediately, even if that meant a mortality rate of two to three percent among students, or three million deaths nationwide. He also promoted useless hydroxychloroquine to fight the coronavirus.

All of this dangerous behavior and rhetoric comes while Fox News churns out nonstop lies about a free, safe, and effective vaccine designed to save lives. Just this week on Fox, the nation’s Covid point person, Dr. Anthony Fauci, was compared to fascist dictator Benito Mussolini and deranged Nazi doctor Josef Mengele.

Here’s what’s painfully obvious, even if the political press doesn’t want to say so: Republicans aren’t merely anti-mask or anti-vaccine. They’re pro-Covid. Period. Republican politicians and commentators, who are fully vaccinated themselves, want the virus to spread and they want to extend the deadly pandemic so it inflicts political damage on Democrats next year. And yes, even if that means anti-science Republicans helping to spread the virus among their own voters, which ought to seem inconceivable, but is not. “Red America Has Seen the Highest Rates of Cases and Deaths, and the Lowest Rate of Vaccinations,” read a recent Washington Post headline.

Never in our nation’s history has a mainstream political party responded to a public health crisis by doing whatever it takes to keep the crisis alive, completely unconcerned about the rising death toll.

There’s a reason every single Republican member of the House and Senate voted against the historic, $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill earlier this year —they hated that it represented a popular win for President Joe Biden.

Despite the mounting evidence of the party’s nihilistic ways, the press remains too timid to call Republicans “pro-Covid,” just like they wouldn’t call Trump a “liar.” Millions of conservative Americans are being brainwashed about the pandemic, and thousands are killing themselves in the process. Yet the media downplay the huge story, framing it simply as “vaccine hesitancy.”

Republicans plan on shamelessly exploiting the Omicron variant. And the only way to exploit a Covid variant is to help spread it. This type of cynical and unpatriotic strategy isn’t new for Republicans — they spent eight years blocking President Barack Obama’s agenda and then blaming him for not getting his agenda passed.

Note that when Republicans ran the federal government and America was under siege from Covid, Trump and his team again aided the virus’ spread. Back then, it was done out of a panicked sense of denial, fearful of what the pandemic would mean to Trump’s re-election.

Trump all but issued a stand-down order for the virus invasion, then became the world’s most influential fountain of Covid misinformation, using his daily White House briefings to spread rampant virus lies. "When it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away," he once predicted. Yet we never saw a parade of "Trump Lies about Pandemic" headlines, as the press remained intimidated by the GOP madman.

“The previous administration* gagged its own scientists, buried its own reports, bullied its own agencies, soft-pedaled its own data, and created its own reality to sell to the country, all at a crucial time when the pandemic could have been fought seriously and at least partly arrested,” notes Esquire’s Charles Pierce.

Just this week we learned that Trump likely showed up at the first presidential debate against Biden contagious with Covid, after Trump tested positive for the virus days earlier and refused to tell anyone.

The transformation from bumbling Covid enablers under Trump to proud Covid supporters today happened when the GOP started shifting gears this spring and summer. At the time, the good news regarding America’s fight against Covid was cascading in, as cases and deaths plummeted in the U.S. The developments led Biden to announce, appropriately at the time, that the U.S stood poised to put the deadly pandemic in the past and fully reemerge to a normal way of life.

Then the Delta variant stormed our shores, sending cases upwards, creating renewed debates about mask-wearing and vaccine mandates. Sensing a political opening, the GOP made a decision to become the party that opposed vaccines, and to become pro-Covid — to do everything possible to extend the pandemic and block Biden’s efforts to save lives and restart the economy.

In other words, the GOP eagerly adopted its role as the fifth column within the United States, working unapologetically to damage the country’s health from within.

That’s the ugly truth that the press ought to be telling.

GOP Senators Stoke Irrational Hatred Of Nonpartisan Scientist Fauci

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet

Dr. Anthony Fauci, now 80, joined the National Institutes of Health back in 1968 and has worked with a long list of Republican presidents — from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush to Gerald Ford. But during the COVID-19 pandemic, he has become an object of irrational hatred in the far-right MAGA movement. And journalist Alexander Bolton, in an article published by The Hill on December 1, explains why that hatred has recently become even worse.

Fauci considers his work with the federal government apolitical, often stressing that his top priority is public health regardless of whether the president is a Democrat or a Republican — and he typically dodges overtly political questions during his frequent appearances on MSNBC and CNN. But Fauci deeply offended thin-skinned MAGA Republicans when, during a Sunday, November 28 appearance on CBS’ Face the Nation, he told host Margaret Brennan that his detractors are “really criticizing science because I represent science.”One of those Republicans was Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, who claimed, “Tony Fauci is nothing more than a Democratic operative.” Cotton would do well to research his party’s pre-MAGA history; Fauci got along fine with President Ronald Reagan, President George H.W. Bush and President George W. Bush.

In fact, a June 19, 2008 press release from the George W. Bush White House stated, “Three decades ago, a mysterious and terrifying plague began to take the lives of people across the world. Before this malady even had a name, it had a fierce opponent in Dr. Anthony Fauci. As the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for more than 23 years, Tony Fauci has led the fight against HIV and AIDS. He was also a leading architect and champion of the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which over the past five years, has reached millions of people — preventing HIV infections in infants and easing suffering and bringing dying communities back to life.”

That press release went on to say, “Those who know Tony do admit one flaw: sometimes, he forgets to stop working…. For his determined and aggressive efforts to help others live longer and healthier lives, I'm proud to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Dr. Anthony S. Fauci.”

Regardless, Cotton and other Republicans view attacking Fauci as a way to score cheap political points with the MAGA crowd, and no one is better at such pandering than former Donald Trump critic turned obsequious Trump sycophant Ted Cruz. The far-right Texas senator has slammed Fauci as “the most dangerous bureaucrat in the history of America” and made the ludicrous comment that Fauci should serve prison time for denying that the NIH funded virus research at a lab in Wuhan, China — which is where COVID-19 was first reported in December 2019.

Fox News’ Lara Logan, according to Bolton, has even compared Fauci to the infamous Dr. Josef Mengele of Nazi Germany infamy.

But one Republican who is calling out the far right’s anti-Fauci nonsense is Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah. Bolton quotes the 2012 GOP presidential nominee as saying, “A lot of politics today is performance politics, which is saying things which excite the bases of our respective parties. I look at Dr. Fauci as an expert in disease and viruses (and) respect his point of view. He’s not perfect; like all humans, he will make mistakes. Politicizing him is just par for the course these days in our highly politicized environment, but I respect him as a scientist.”

'Quack' Dr. Oz Is Running For Pennsylvania GOP Senate Nomination

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet

Dr. Mehmet Oz, the hydroxychloroquine-pushing TV doctor widely known for promoting pseudoscience and fake treatments has decided to use his expertise to run for the U.S. Senate as a Republican, and if not fully-embrace Donald Trump, certainly align himself with the disgraced former president.

In an op-ed exclusive to the right-wing national website The Washington Examiner and in a just-released video (below), Oz announces his run, citing the nation’s response to COVID and its ramifications as a primary factor for entering politics. It’s unclear why he did not announce via a Pennsylvania publication.

“We are angry at our government and at each other,” his op-ed begins. “We have not managed our crises as effectively as past generations. During the pandemic, I learned that when you mix politics and medicine, you get politics instead of solutions. That’s why I am running for the U.S. Senate: to help fix the problems and to help us heal.”

Like more and more Republicans entering the political landscape, Oz has precisely zero experience in government, but that once-presumed prerequisite is no longer in vogue.

“Oz — a longtime New Jersey resident — would enter a Republican field that is resetting with an influx of candidates and a new opportunity to appeal to voters loyal to former President Donald Trump, now that the candidate endorsed by Trump has just exited the race,” The Associated Press reports. “Oz may have to explain why he isn’t running for office in New Jersey, where he has lived for the past two decades before he began voting in Pennsylvania’s elections this year by absentee ballot, registered to his in-laws’ address in suburban Philadelphia.

”The “celebrity heart surgeon,” the AP adds, “has been dogged by accusations that he is a charlatan selling “quack treatments and cures in the interest of personal financial gain,” a group of doctors wrote in 2015 in a letter calling for his firing from Columbia University’s medical school. He wasn’t fired.”

The Daily Beast at the start of the coronavirus pandemic last year labeled Oz an “alleged quack” and asked why he was chosen as the face of NBC’s “Coronavirus Crisis Team.”

“Oz began making regular appearances on Fox News after the start of the pandemic, and in the spring of 2020 came under fire for comments suggesting that reopening schools might be worth the extra deaths, because it ‘may only cost us 2% to 3% in terms of total mortality,'” the AP notes. “Researchers from the University of Alberta found in 2014 that, of 80 randomly selected recommendations from Oz’s shows, often dietary advice, roughly half was unsupported by evidence, or contradicted by it.”

Watch Oz’s statement, which includes Trump rhetoric like “America first.”That’s far from the only attack on Oz’s credibility as a medical professional.


Anti-Vax Protest Leader: Mandates Are 'Worse' Than Nazi Threat To Jews

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet

Scientologist Leigh Dundas, who organized last Thursday's anti-vaccine protest which resulted in a car plowing into five people on San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, called employers requiring workers to be vaccinated against the deadly coronavirus worse than the threat the Jews faced in Hitler's Germany right before the Holocaust.

Well over 750,000 Americans have died of COVID-19, most of them after the highly-effective and extraordinarily safe vaccines first became available.

Dundas, who calls herself a human rights attorney, was among the speakers at her "Nationwide Walkout" march.

"Today we face a bigger threat, I believe, than the Jews did in the late 1930s in Eastern Europe," Dundas yelled into a megaphone on Thursday.

"I believe it is worse than child sex slavery, it is worse than every abuse we have heard about in our history books," Dundas continued. "I believe, I actually believe it is worse than war, because this threat is not just coming for one group – it is coming for all groups."

Dundas claims her nonprofit, Advocates for Citizens' Rights, "operates exclusively for the promotion of social welfare; particularly, the preservation of citizens' fundamental rights as protected by the United States Constitution, the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, and the Nuremberg Code."

Dundas was at the U.S. Capitol the day before the insurrection, "telling the crowd that if Vice President Mike Pence didn't vote to throw out Electoral College results Americans would have to choose to live as 'slaves' or to 'rise up' just as they did during the American Revolution," according to an Orange County Register report in January.

"Any alleged American who acted in a turncoat fashion and sold us out and committed treason, we would be well within our rights to take 'em out back and shoot 'em or hang 'em," Dundas had said.