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

Historians of the modern presidency keep a special shelf for Richard Nixon — a noted place for a corrupt, power-mad and paranoid man who trampled constitutional ideals in his quest to hang onto his office. But Nixon must relinquish his title as modern history’s most corrupt president to a man who would leave him in the dust: President Donald J. Trump. Even Nixon would likely be alarmed by his behavior.

For all his conniving, all of his cover-ups, all of his lies, Nixon had an appropriate appreciation for foreign rivals, an understanding of the existential threats represented by our adversaries. Not so Trump. He would gladly hand over the keys to the kingdom to Russia — or North Korea, for that matter — as long as their strongmen showed him the deference which he craves.

In an alarming display of ignorance and arrogance, Trump told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos last week that he would accept any incriminating information about his political opponents that Russia or any other foreign country might provide. Casually referring to such intrusions as “opposition research,” Trump said: “I think you might want to listen. There’s nothing wrong with listening … It’s not interference.”

The president said that while repeating, with a straight face, his frequent refrain that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, which centered on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, was a “witch hunt.” (Trump has also told Stephanopoulos that he likes “the truth … I’m a very honest person” — a claim that is a funhouse mirror reflection of reality.)

Trump’s campaign marks the first time in American history that a foreign power is known to have intervened in a U.S. election, a stunning disruption of our revered political processes, a cunning use of soft power that would have left our intelligence services envious had it not happened to us. All of the years of the Central Intelligence Agency’s interference in lands from the Middle East to South America never yielded a result quite so neat and clean. We were successfully attacked by a foreign power without a shot fired or a body dropped. Russia’s assistance may well have been the boost that put Trump over the finish line.

And unlike Nixon, who at least had the good sense to be ashamed of his dirty tricks, Trump has just told a national audience that he would welcome Russian assistance should they offer it again. Reminded that his own FBI director, Christopher Wray, has said that any such intrusion should merit an immediate report to federal authorities, Trump angrily retorted, “The FBI director is wrong.” The president said he might not report any such contact by a foreign power.

Trump’s perfidies are so astonishing — so bold and bald-faced — that many Americans are left speechless, jaws dropped to the floor, unable to fully grasp the ramifications. Others, however, embrace Trump’s lawlessness, excuse his treachery, aid and abet his abuses. Here’s another distinction from the Nixon era: The U.S. attorney general, William Barr, has attacked those who point out Trump’s malfeasance. Barr, indeed, has launched a broadside against U.S. intelligence agencies for daring to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election.

And there are still other differences more troubling, more profound. Nixon ultimately resigned rather than face impeachment; he was rapidly losing the support of leading Republican office-holders as well as the allegiance of regular GOP voters. His presidency was unsustainable.

Trump lacks the self-awareness or sense of shame to resign. Besides, he continues to enjoy the support of the vast majority of Republican politicians from the U.S. Senate down to small-town courthouses. GOP voters, too, have shown a loyalty that would have thrilled Jim Jones. As Trump infamously put it during his campaign, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters.”

That suggests a rot that goes much deeper than one foolish narcissist and his chosen claque. A substantial minority of American voters are ready to throw out the U.S. Constitution, blow up cherished democratic traditions, and embrace a foreign dictator — so long as they can keep the man whose presidency is built on white nationalism. This is a putrefaction at the heart of the American system, a malignancy at the core.

The time for impeachment may have arrived, but it won’t cure what ails us.

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.