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

Republicans Skirmish Aboard Their Sinking Ship

Even if November's electoral tsunami is still just a rumor on the horizon, that big blue wave already is rocking Republican boats. We can sense something different in the distance, not only because the polls say so but because political journalism has departed from its banal narrative.

Instead of the repetitious dullness of "Democrats in disarray," there is the freshly entertaining spectacle of "Republican civil war."

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Biden Seizes Our Last Chance

One of the worst failings of political journalism in our time was just illustrated again. When Joe Biden delivered a path-breaking address on climate change, he drew less media coverage than a rumored shakeup in the Trump campaign. Do you care more about the fate of Republican grifters — or the fate of the Earth?

Even reporters who prefer process over substance could find an angle in Biden's speech, because it represented such a clear break with his own past positioning on the climate issue. In a radical departure from his "moderate" stance during the Democratic primaries, the former vice president is proposing a far more intense program, on a faster schedule that will cost a lot more money.

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Let’s Not Kill Our Heroes

Among the lessons taught by the pandemic is to value the people who make life possible in this country. They are hospital employees, ambulance drivers, cops and firefighters, of course, but also delivery workers, grocery clerks, utility workers, mail carriers and a panoply of others who confronted danger every day for months and still do. Most of us didn't notice how routinely they were overlooked, underpaid, dismissed and even disparaged until they helped us survive a lockdown.

Millions of parents have lately discovered, if they didn't already know, that teachers are among the most undervalued professionals in America. Trying to wrangle children at home every day, let alone induce them to learn, has schooled anyone who might have felt that our educators make more money than they deserve. So if we've discovered how essential these workers truly are, shouldn't we treat them as we would hope to be treated ourselves? And if we're committed to redressing fundamental inequities, shouldn't we start now — not wait until some distant day when the crisis is over?

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What No Patriot Would Ever Do

"Performative patriotism" is a fancy way of describing what my father — a veteran of World War II who rarely spoke about his service — called "jelly-bellied flag flappers." Dad always laughed at those phonies, but we now suffer a president who is exactly that type, only worse. And Donald Trump's flag-flapping fakery is no joke.

A performative patriot is someone who, like Trump, oversells his supposed love of country, his reverence for the Stars and Stripes and, especially, his indignation at those whom he suspects of lacking his deep fervor. Such a figure will, like Trump, attempt to market these counterfeit emotions for his own benefit. And like Trump, that loud jingo is someone whose character will lead to a betrayal of American values.

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Biden And Trump: A Contrast Stark As Life Or Death

Protecting the lives and health of citizens ought to be the most basic duty of any government. But the Trump administration, abnormal and toxic, is evidently determined to inflict illness and death on as many Americans as possible.

Consider what President Donald Trump and his minions have done over the past few days (not to mention the past several months). Owing to their feckless insistence on reopening the economy, the coronavirus has again surged across the country, from Florida to Texas to California, infecting tens of thousands — many of whom will soon need care in overburdened hospitals. Yet the federal government has simultaneously announced a drastic cutback in testing funds. They're suppressing the numbers rather than the disease.

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What Bolton’s Memoir Really Tells Us About Trump -- And Him

What can we learn from John Bolton's new memoir? History will not absolve him, his execrable ex-boss Donald Trump or the Republican political apparatus that has enabled the toxic Trump regime.

Well before Bolton's book arrived, we already knew the single most important fact about the Trump presidency and Trump himself: He and the Republicans who surround him are willing to sacrifice tens of thousands of American lives if their deaths might somehow promote his reelection.

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Tearing Down Symbols Of Slavery And Treason

Suddenly confronted with the enduring realities of racism in our time, white Americans are looking back at the history we have too often forgotten — and the ways that our amnesia has distorted the nation's culture. Now we have arrived at a time for remembrance, and reckoning.

Perhaps the most damning proof of our neglect over the past century or more are the flags, monuments and other remnants of the old Confederacy displayed all over the country. While the pressure of the moment is prompting institutions as diverse as universities, city governments and even NASCAR to remove those stains from our public life, the usual suspects are defending them, led by President Donald Trump, the clown who proclaims his superiority to Abraham Lincoln.

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A Timely Warning From The Generals

Under ordinary circumstances, open dissent from high-ranking military officials against the actions of civilian political leaders would signal a danger familiar to other countries. Such rumblings from military circles often indicate that constitutional freedoms are in jeopardy and that martial law, or even a coup d'etat, may be on the horizon.

In these extraordinary circumstances, however, all expectations are reversed — and the usual order of things is turned upside down.

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A Case Of Negligent Homicide

A normal president of either political party would have read by now the dark milestone that the country passed this week, when American deaths from coronavirus passed 100,000 in a space of three months. A normal president would have acknowledged when jobless claims passed 40 million. A normal president would have felt compelled to face up to this terrible reality in a spirit of unity and compassion, speaking to us from the Oval Office or a house of worship. A normal president would not have brushed aside those deaths with a perfunctory tweet, wedged with minimal sincerity into his daily outpouring of poison.

But we know Donald Trump isn't a normal president. He is a perpetrator and a predator. He has proved again this week that he cannot respond appropriately to this monumental tragedy — that he must instead do anything he can to distract us — because he is conscious of his own guilt.

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PompeoGate: The First Scandal Of Campaign 2024

Do you remember Mike Pompeo?

Not the Pompeo who now serves as secretary of state, and who liked to boast that he had restored the "swagger" of the diplomatic corps (even as he served up his own Ukraine ambassador to a White House smear campaign). And no, not the sleazy character who induced the firing of the State Department's inspector general in order to bury an investigation of his own misconduct. This Secretary Pompeo is a flunky of President Donald Trump who lives happily inside the president's ethical vacuum.

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Prescription For A Sick Country

Before June 1, we will almost certainly have lost 100,000 Americans to the coronavirus, along with 25 million jobs. Without powerful government action, this national catastrophe, unlike anything seen here for a hundred years, will continue to ravage the United States. And there is every reason to fear that we will see yet more pandemic disease as this century unfolds.

Yet there is still no sign that the Trump administration is prepared to act with the determination, skill and urgency that the hour demands. Instead, the president consistently demonstrates his mental and moral unfitness to lead — as he did again this week when he idiotically declared that we have so many COVID-19 cases because we have done so many tests.

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The Travel Bans That Failed

Now that President Donald Trump has surrendered the United States to the coronavirus — without much available testing, except for himself and his White House cronies — the toll of illness and death is sure to explode. As America counts the cost of their horrific incompetence, in the midst of his reelection campaign, the president will trumpet his sole attempt to stem the looming pandemic: his closing of the nation's borders to China and later Europe.

"I put the ban on China, as you know," he said at a press briefing on April 20, uttering the defensive mantra he repeats whenever anyone mentions his refusal to do anything useful. Lately, he has congratulated himself that way at least once a day. It's an essential element of the administration's policy of deflecting blame toward Beijing. Sometimes he mentions that he "put a ban on Europe" and even says that his courageous actions "saved many lives."

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Bless Their Hearts: How Red States Screw Blue States

Nothing angers Andrew Cuomo more than the notion that taxpayers in "red states" should resent or resist assistance for "blue states" struggling against the coronavirus. Hearing that message from Senate Republicans provoked the Democratic New York governor to remind the nation several times of the gross disparity between what his state remits to the Treasury and what their states reclaim in federal benefits.

Cuomo noted acidly that New York pays $116 billion more than it gets back annually, while lucky Kentucky, the home of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, gets $148 billion more than it pays. By that reckoning, New York has kicked in far more over the past few decades than any of the states whose Republican leaders criticize supposed liberal profligacy.

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Mitch McConnell’s True Colors

If you're listening to politicians, you hear them sing bipartisan praise for the heroes who march bravely into the viral storm every day. They constantly eulogize doctors and nurses, cops and firefighters, but also those who maintain essential services amid the coronavirus catastrophe — from grocery clerks to delivery drivers to sanitation workers, train conductors and traffic engineers. Suddenly, we have all realized that those good people, whose thankless toil we took for granted, deserve our gratitude and respect.

Or so it seemed until Mitch McConnell opened his mouth and proved that, to him at least, those civic accolades mean nothing.

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There Is Nobody Else To Blame

When he isn't watching Fox News or tweeting insults at his perceived enemies, President Donald Trump spends a lot of time hunting scapegoats. Always preoccupied with escaping responsibility, Trump's lifelong delinquency is suddenly a matter of life and death, as coronavirus claims thousands of American lives on his presidential watch. And as it becomes clearer that the United States might have easily avoided the worst consequences of the pandemic — and failed because of federal inaction — it is Trump whose historic reputation will plummet.

So will his chances of reelection. The latest Gallup poll shows his approval rating, now mired in the low 40s, has slid six points during the past month.

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Correcting Trump’s Pandemic Lies In Real Time

For weeks now, the nation's broadcasters have faced a moral dilemma every time President Donald Trump mounts the White House podium to deliver his "coronavirus briefing." While ordinary journalistic standards compel coverage of any president's remarks — especially during a national crisis — this president's relentless utterance of falsehoods, propaganda points and potentially deadly disinformation mocks those same standards.

Should media outlets meekly give Trump hours of free airtime to mislead and misinform their audiences? Can they cut short or even ignore his destructive rants without violating their own principles? When the president's speech poses a daily menace to human health and American democracy, how should responsible TV networks present him?

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We Need A 9/11 Commission To Probe Pandemic Failure

Americans are now living — and many, many are dying — with the consequences of a truly historic governmental failure. The administration of President Donald Trump, which bears all the responsibility it is trying to escape, has collapsed in the face of a global pandemic that scientists have long warned would someday arrive. Now it is here, threatening to kill hundreds of thousands and perhaps millions.

Sooner, rather than later, we must learn why this catastrophe occurred, why the United States government neglected to anticipate and prepare for it, and how the nation can prevent or at least mitigate its recurrence. That's why we will need a coronavirus commission to provide answers, along with the same kind of deep and thorough investigation performed by the 9/11 Commission after that disaster.

Knowing that President Trump and his minions lie as routinely as other people breathe, we have to expect that they will oppose any inquiry that might reveal how they botched their fundamental responsibility to protect the country. So House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ought to launch that process now, by authorizing the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence to conduct research and hearings on what is surely the worst intelligence failure since 9/11 and likely the worst in U.S. history.

A serious investigation of the pandemic, its origins and its almost unimpeded swath of destruction would begin by identifying the actual source of the disease and examining how the virus jumped into the human population. Such an investigation would necessarily examine the Chinese government's responsibility in having concealed the outbreak at the very beginning, when it might have been eradicated at relatively little cost.

And then the investigation would probe Washington's ruinous neglect of the pandemic threat as it loomed over this country.

Already it is clear that for months, the Trump White House pretended the "Wuhan virus," as the White House insists on calling it, posed no significant danger to the United States. The president infamously congratulated himself for ordering a ship filled with sick passengers to not come ashore because he wanted "the numbers" to remain low. He told us that the virus would disappear "miraculously," that the disease would vanish in warmer weather, that the first dozen infected would dwindle to zero.

It is equally clear that the Trump administration's approach to the issue of pandemic disease was fatally myopic from the beginning. The 2018 decision to disband the National Security Council's directorate for biodefense and global health crippled the capacity to confront coronavirus as it developed. In the year following that decision, top experts on pandemic disease left the White House. With the Republican right's typical militaristic mindset, John Bolton, then the national security adviser, folded that vital office into the same division that oversees nuclear proliferation and bioterrorism.

In November 2019, the Center for Strategic and International Studies urged the reversal of Bolton's stupid directive. The intelligent and impeccably conservative analysts at CSIS understood why defending against a virus that springs from nature is a very different kind of threat — as former President Barack Obama's experience with H1N1 flu and Ebola should have taught us.

Of course, Trump now claims that he knew nothing about that grave bureaucratic mistake — or the multiple mistakes that led us into the awful trap of delay, dithering and doom.

In the months before the 9/11 Commission was established, then-President George W. Bush's administration tried to forestall an independent investigation of how the al-Qaida plot succeeded. White House officials protested that those who wanted a probe were motivated by partisan politics, which would inevitably taint the findings. They hindered the creation of the commission and resisted providing the documents and testimony necessary to complete its work. But in the end, they were forced to cooperate — and the revelations of 9/11 Commission Report not only exposed Bush's errors but also led to substantial reform of the nation's counterterrorism structures.

Predictably, congressional Republicans as well as the Trump gang will whine that Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who oversaw the Intelligence Committee's impeachment hearings, cannot run a fair investigation of the pandemic disaster. They will conveniently forget the multiple congressional investigations of the 2012 Benghazi attack, a tragedy that resulted in four American deaths (and one for which they exploited Hilary Clinton, as their own caucus leader ineptly confessed).

After thousands die, however, it will be difficult for Trump to argue against an effort to learn why we lost so many of our fellow Americans and how we can ensure it doesn't happen again. If he doesn't want a congressional probe by his adversaries, then he can simply agree to a blue-ribbon, bipartisan panel like the 9/11 Commission — and live in dread of its findings.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.