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

America Is Losing The Fight Against Coronavirus

In the category of "famous last words," my favorite has always been what Union Army Gen. John Sedgwick said when urged to take cover from Confederate sharpshooters. "They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance," he replied, and then fell dead from a rifle shot.

Mike Pence is guilty of a similar miscalculation. Writing in The Wall Street Journal on June 16, he boasted of the administration's response to the coronavirus pandemic: "We are winning the fight against the invisible enemy."

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How North Korea’s Dictator Scammed Trump

Donald Trump had a bad week. He went to West Point to make himself look like a strong leader but raised doubts about his health when he struggled drinking water and descending a ramp. His first Supreme Court appointee wrote the opinion in a case upholding gay and transgender rights.

The court also struck down Trump's effort to deport undocumented foreigners brought here as children. His former national security advisor wrote a book painting the world's most powerful person as an ignorant sleazebag who was guilty of the impeachment charges and more.

Trump had to reschedule a Tulsa rally planned for Juneteenth, but he insisted on holding it the following day — risking lives in a state suffering a surge of the coronavirus. New polls showed him trailing Joe Biden by landslide margins.

In any other week, it would be major news that the North Korean government blew up an office building that had been used for meetings with South Korean officials. Ordinarily, Americans might have taken note that, as The New York Times reported, the regime is threatening "to extinguish the fragile detente with a new cycle of bellicose actions and military provocations."

Attention would have been riveted by disclosure in Bolton's book that Trump's get-togethers with Kim Jong Un were not about eliminating North Korea's nuclear program but merely at making himself look good.

In reference to the first meeting, in Singapore, Bolton says Trump told him "he was prepared to sign a substance-free communique, have his press conference to declare victory, and then get out of town." Though Trump cared little about nukes, making sure that Kim received an Elton John CD "remained a high priority for several months."

Trump has been a failure in many areas, but nowhere else has there been a greater distance between what he claimed to achieve and what he actually did. In his telling, he averted the war that Barack Obama had been on the verge of initiating. "You would, right now, be in a nice, big, fat war in Asia with North Korea if I wasn't elected president," he claimed last year, in one of his hallucinatory episodes.

At the outset, it was Trump who sounded ready to launch an attack. In 2017, the Pyongyang regime carried out a successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. The president responded by declaring that if North Korea threatened us, "They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen." In a speech at the UN, he said, "Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime."

But soon Trump changed his tune. He dispatched CIA Director Mike Pompeo to North Korea, and soon he agreed to travel to Singapore to meet with Kim. He made this concession even though the CIA, according to NBC News, concluded that "North Korea will not give up its nuclear weapons, but it may be open to allowing a western burger chain to open a franchise in the country."

In June 2018, his first summit with Kim yielded a vague joint communique and Trump's agreement to suspend joint military exercises with South Korea. But he immediately tweeted, "There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea."

In fact, Kim never gave up a single nuclear weapon. What he did instead was manipulate Trump with flattery. "He wrote me beautiful letters," the president gushed in 2019. "We fell in love."

But their love affair has not kept Kim from expanding his nuclear arsenal. Nor has he closed any of the reactors that produce weapons fuel. North Korea has gone back to regular missile tests. Last month, Kim convened his military leaders to announce "new policies for further increasing the nuclear war deterrence of the country," according to the government.

In short, Trump held three grand summits with Kim, bragged about eliminating the nuclear threat, expressed his love for the dictator — and has gotten a big fat nothing. Concludes Bolton, "We're now nearly three years into the administration with no visible progress toward getting North Korea to make the strategic decision to stop pursuing deliverable nuclear weapons."

Trump is the political equivalent of the lonely guys who get scammed by dating websites promising to connect them with hot Russian women. The promises he got from his heartthrob didn't pan out. But hey — he'll always have those letters.

Steve Chapman blogs at http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chapman. Follow him on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

When The Cops Are Their Own Worst Enemies

You may have seen it: a black and white American flag with one stripe highlighted in blue. The Thin Blue Line flag is used meant to show solidarity with the police. As Thin Blue Line USA says, it "represents all who faithfully serve and protect. A line that separates order from chaos, and a line that represents all who serve and all who stand for #justice."

Early on the morning of June 1, most of those who make up the thin blue line of the Chicago Police Department were straining to deal with hooligans. But according to Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Police Superintendent David Brown, 13 of their fellow officers were taking it easy in the burglarized campaign office of Rep. Bobby Rush as nearby shops were being ransacked.

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Biden Is Stuck In The Middle, Comfortably

Poor Joe Biden. On one side, he is being pressed by progressives who are rallying behind the slogan, "Defund the police." On the other side, he faces withering blasts from Donald Trump, who vows to uphold "law & order, not defund and abolish the police."

This squeeze comes during a moment of intense national turmoil. Biden can't make a move without risking anger among those in the left wing of the Democratic Party or inviting trouble with voters worried about violent unrest. There's even the risk he could antagonize both sides. On the battlefield, it can be fatal to let your forces be caught between armies advancing from either direction.

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Trump’s Hostile Misuse Of The Military

For most of the 21st century, American presidents have been busy proving that the U.S. military cannot bring peace and stability to Iraq and Afghanistan. But that does not stop the current president from believing it can bring peace and stability to American cities.

On Monday, Donald Trump made it clear that his tiny quota of patience was running out. "If a city or a state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents," he warned, "then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them." He has in mind going beyond the traditional use of the National Guard in favor of active-duty troops.

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If Riots Aren’t The Answer, What Is?

It is impossible to justify the violence, looting, arson and vandalism that took place in Minneapolis and other cities after the death of George Floyd at the hands of police. Smashing windows, torching buildings and plundering stores do nothing to improve police behavior or help the African American community. They amount to useless destruction.

Impossible to justify, yes. Impossible to understand? Not at all. Police have participated in a quiet riot against black people for generations.

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Trump Wants Twitter To Spread Lies, Not Truth

For years, Twitter has been Donald Trump's big cargo hauler for getting his message to his followers. It lets him bypass the news media to communicate directly, as often as he wants, in whatever terms he chooses. Trump without Twitter would be Florida without the ocean.

For everyone else, his use of the social media platform has also served a valuable purpose: providing daily documentation of his inexhaustible rage, vanity, mendacity and lack of self-control. It's a real-time glimpse of his mental instability. Psychiatrists are reluctant to diagnose from afar, but they learn more from his tweeting than most of them ever get from listening to patients in person.

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A Restaurant Rebound Is Not On The Menu

When the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down the governor's stay-at-home order, several bars and restaurants immediately reopened, and customers came. At some, patrons thronged in, shunning masks and social distancing. On the following Saturday, the resort town of Lake Geneva attracted a horde of tourists eager to eat, drink and mingle with others.

The implication was clear: Americans are tired of isolation and are unafraid of getting sick. If we lift the restrictions that have shut down so many of these places, people will go back to doing what they used to.

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In This Crisis, States Should Get A Lot Of Federal Money

The economic collapse precipitated by the coronavirus pandemic has been a disaster for a multitude of individuals and companies, and the federal government has wisely showered them with money to offset their losses. But the downturn has also been a disaster for states, which don't get the same love in Washington.

When the House passed a $3 trillion relief bill with $1 trillion for state, local and tribal governments, only one Republican voted yes. President Donald Trump has threatened to veto the measure in the unlikely event that it gets through the Senate.

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False Notion Of Freedom Among Lockdown Protesters

The people who have rallied in Chicago and elsewhere to protest stay-at-home orders and business shutdowns are big proponents of freedom. They claim their right to assemble has been violated, along with their right to earn a living and enjoy their normal lives.

One sign at the May 1 protest said, "Give me liberty or give me COVID-19." Another said, "Freedom is essential." There were flags warning, "Don't tread on me." The protesters, like those in lots of other places, were demanding the right to go about their lives as they choose, even if it means contracting the coronavirus and giving it to others.

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To Get Back To Normal, Ensure Mass Coronavirus Testing

The defining characteristic of the current national mood is profound uncertainty. We don't how widespread the new coronavirus is. We don't know who may have it. The lack of information is a huge obstacle to resuming normal life.

Donald Trump has reservations about the expansion of testing for the disease because it raises the quantity of known infections. "If we did very little testing, we wouldn't have the most cases," he said Wednesday. "So, in a way, by doing all of this testing, we make ourselves look bad."

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Voting By Mail Protects Both Democracy And Public Health

If I were a fan of the coronavirus, here's what I'd like to see this fall: crowds of Americans standing in line for minutes or hours in venues where they can easily infect each other. By then, the contagion may be receding thanks to measures to combat it, or it may be going strong. Either way, Election Day could be a great boon to the disease, furnishing a trove of new victims.

There is a way to deprive the pandemic of this extraordinary opportunity: getting as many people as possible to cast their votes by mail instead of in person. It's an entirely doable response. But not everyone thinks saving lives is worth the trouble. One of them is Donald Trump, who voted by mail in Florida's March primary but doesn't think everyone else should.

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Trump’s Immigration Ban Literally Harms Our Health

Over the past three years, I have spent a lot of time in hospitals supporting close relatives with serious medical conditions. I've been there many mornings, afternoons and evenings, interacting with doctors, nurses and other personnel. And I often wonder: Where would hospital patients be without immigrants?

Many of the people on the front lines of the battle against the coronavirus came here from other countries. A 2018 study found that 29 percent of physicians were born abroad and seven percent are not U.S. citizens. For registered nurses, the figures are 16 percent and three percent. There is no telling how many hospital kitchen workers, IT staff and maintenance employees — all crucial to operations — are also foreign-born.

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Why Trump’s Oil Deal Is Bad For Americans

For decades, American presidents and American consumers have complained when oil prices rose and rejoiced when oil prices fell. But this week, Donald Trump helped forge an agreement with Russia, Saudi Arabia and other oil production nations to raise prices by slashing production. Then he bragged about it.

"The big Oil Deal with OPEC Plus is done," he tweeted. "This will save hundreds of thousands of energy jobs in the United States. I would like to thank and congratulate President Putin of Russia and King Salman of Saudi Arabia. ... Great deal for all!"

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Economy Won’t Reopen With A Bang

From the first moment Donald Trump recognized the serious nature of the new coronavirus pandemic, his impatience has been palpable. Over and over, he stressed how quickly we would get past it. And even after extending the guidelines that restrict activity until the end of April, he continues to predict that life will soon be back to normal.

"It would be nice to be able to open with a big bang and open up our country or certainly most of our country," he said Wednesday. "And I think we're going to do that soon." Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was similarly optimistic, predicting that "we could be open for business in the month of May." Attorney General William Barr insisted that by then, it will be time "to allow people to adapt more than we have and not just tell people to go home and hide under their bed."

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Even Navy Secretary’s Subservience Couldn’t Save Him

The trick to surviving in Donald Trump's administration is being a shameless toady, willing at any moment to lavish praise on the president. But acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly found that staying on Trump's good side can be impossibly tricky. He resigned Tuesday in the apparent realization that his strenuous self-abasement was not enough to appease the president.

Last week, Modly relieved the commander of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, who had emailed higher-ups pleading for the evacuation of sailors aboard the aircraft carrier because of an outbreak of COVID-19. After the letter was leaked to the press, Modly sacked Capt. Brett Crozier for showing "extremely poor judgment" and letting the situation "overwhelm his ability to act professionally."

Then the secretary flew to Guam to deliver a denunciation of Crozier, whose own sailors had cheered him as he left the ship. Modly boarded the carrier and used its public address system to inform the crew that the captain was "was either too naive or too stupid to be a commanding officer of a ship like this."

Why would Modly go to such trouble and use such inflammatory language to excoriate an officer who was trying to protect his personnel — and to rebuke the sailors who thought highly of him? Probably because Trump had expressed dissatisfaction with Crozier, and Modly wanted to demonstrate his utter devotion to the president.


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