Trump’s Military Response to Protests Highlights His Authoritarianism

The words “authoritarian regime” or “dictatorship” perhaps call to mind Adolf Hitler’s “Final Solution” or George Orwell’s fictional 1984. Yet some Americans may still have trouble seeing the authoritarian tactics on display today from President Donald Trump.

As the country erupts in anti-police-brutality protests, Trump’s response has been to double down on the use of state-sanctioned violence. On May 29, Twitter — concerned that one of the president’s tweets about shooting looters could incite violence — took the unprecedented step of hiding a tweet from the official White House account. By Saturday, Trump was threatening to use “the unlimited power of our Military and many arrests” to control protesters. The president followed up on this threat of force on June 1: In a chilling Rose Garden address, Trump told state governors that they “must establish an overwhelming law enforcement presence until the violence has been quelled.” He then threatened to send in military troops — without governors’ consent — if they did not.

While the president was addressing the nation in the Rose Garden, officers were firing rubber bullets and tear gas on a crowd of peaceful protesters outside the White House. The officers had been ordered to clear Lafayette Square in preparation for Trump’s post-speech photo op.

Moreover, as the COVID-19 death toll exceeds 100,000 in the U.S. and the infection rate is more than 1.8 million, the president’s response has only become more autocratic.

Earlier, when the death toll topped 22,000, Trump threatened to override governors’ stay-at-home orders, claiming that the federal government “has absolute power” over the states. As the death toll reached 45,000, the president threatened to suspend immigration into the United States.

As the death toll climbed above 47,000, Trump fired Rick Bright, the scientist in charge of the federal government’s effort to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. Bright refused to support the use of hydroxychloroquine — the president’s preferred COVID-19 treatment.

As the death toll surpassed 67,000 Trump barred members of the coronavirus task force, including Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, from testifying before the house on its activities.

As the United States reached the grim milestone of 100,000 deaths, Trump threatened to “close down” social media companies after Twitter fact-checked the president’s claims about mail-in voting.

Despite Trump’s well-documented failures to take early or sufficient action against COVID-19, a recent polling analysis from FiveThirtyEight demonstrates that the president’s May approval rating — currently sitting at 43 percent — is roughly equivalent to what it was before the pandemic.

For some, this style of governance perhaps appears merely embarrassing when compared to that of Germany’s Adolf Hitler or Italy’s Benito Mussolini.

However, in this time of crisis, it is more imperative than ever that Americans recognize the threat Trump and his Republican colleagues pose to democracy. Americans cannot allow them to use the twin crises of COVID-19 and recent anti-police brutality protests to further consolidate power.

As a political scientist, I study how constitutional democracies can backslide into authoritarianism.

Around the fall of the Soviet Union, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the type of brutal authoritarianism associated with leaders like Joseph Stalin became much less common.

Post-Cold War governments in places as diverse as Cambodia, Kenya, Peru and Ukraine understood that they would need to pretend to be democracies if they wanted to have a favorable relationship with the world’s only remaining superpower, the United States. As a result, a new type of hybrid government was born: competitive authoritarianism.

Today, countries like Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Turkey, Nicolás Maduro’s Venezuela and Vladimir Putin’s Russia are considered by political scientists to be “competitive” because their leaders are still chosen by an election. All three countries also have constitutions.

However, these regimes also exhibit some hallmarks of traditional “authoritarian” governments. For example, Erdoğan has been criticized for jailing journalists and violating the human rights of Kurds. Likewise, Maduro ensured that his most popular political opponent was disqualified from Venezuela’s 2018 presidential race.

Rulers of competitive authoritarian regimes also frequently rig economic and political systems for their own benefit. Putin is estimated to have amassed between $60 and $200 billion in wealth since rising to power in Russia.

COVID-19 now provides authoritarian leaders around the world the opportunity to consolidate more power. Hungary’s parliament recently passed a bill that gives its autocratic Prime Minister Viktor Orbán the power to rule by decree and arrest anyone spreading “fake news” for the duration of the crisis.

Certainly, Trump and his Republican supporters are not Hitler or Mussolini, but they share some striking similarities with more modern autocrats like Erdoğan or Orbán.

Like other autocrats, the U.S. president has used the power of the state to harass political opponents.

On Mother’s Day, Trump unleashed a tweet storm about “Obamagate” — a right-wing conspiracy theory alleging that President Barack Obama orchestrated the Russia investigation with the sole purpose of discrediting the Trump administration. Trump further implied that investigations into the Obama administration — and presumably Joe Biden — would be forthcoming.

Trump has also habitually attacked blue state governors like Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer, New York’s Andrew Cuomo and Washington’s Jay Inslee, claiming that they are weaponizing coronavirus against him.

An unwillingness for the American president to listen to blue state governors represents a real danger for citizens living in those states. Trump continues to support anti-lockdown protesters in blue states, and demands a general reopening of the economy. Hypocritically, he expects states to reopen without sufficient personal protective equipment and testing at the same time that the White House is using an extensive test-and-trace program on West Wing employees.

The president has also used the COVID-19 crisis as another opportunity to discredit the free press.

Washington Post analysis of Trump’s first six weeks of COVID-19 briefings revealed that he spent over two hours attacking political opponents and the media, and attacked someone personally in 113 out of 346 questions he was asked. By comparison, he only spent a total of four and a half minutes expressing condolences for the victims of COVID-19.

Trump further suggested that The New York Times should be sued for libel for its coverage of his coronavirus response. Using defamation laws to silence political dissent is a common practice in countries like Morocco, Thailand and Burma.

The president’s constant refrain that the press is the “enemy of the people” is even more disturbing in light of reports that at least a dozen journalists were injured while covering protests last weekend. In several instances, journalists reported being harassed by police even after they had displayed their press credentials. In one chilling instance, a police officer in Louisville, Kentucky, pointed a gun filled with pepper bullets directly at a local TV reporter. A CNN crew was also arrested on air. The harassment of journalists trying to cover protests is common in authoritarian regimes and represents a serious threat to the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of the press.

Further, like a Russian oligarch, Trump has attempted to use his office to enrich himself and his cronies. He used the power of his office to expand Trump properties overseas and benefit his son-in-law’s real estate business.

Democrats agreed to pass a $2 trillion stimulus package only after Republicans agreed to add oversight to the $500 billion the bill allocates for corporate bailouts. Senate Republicans were also forced to add a provision that businesses owned by current government employees (including Trump) could not benefit from the bailout money.

Trump then issued a signing statement to the bill essentially arguing that oversight mechanisms provided in the bill are an illegitimate encroachment on executive power and do not need to be respected by his administration.

At the end of April, Congress passed an additional $484 billion in stimulus to boost the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) aimed at protecting small business.

Recently, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer raised oversight concerns when it was revealed that Trump donor and luxury hotel owner Monty Bennett received $70 million from the fund. Bennett agreed to return the money, but serious concerns remain regarding how the money from the PPP program has been allocated.

Modern authoritarianism doesn’t announce itself with death camps and killing fields. It creeps up suddenly, with constraints on the freedom of the press, attacks on opposition leaders and a slow corruption of the laws. The first step to remaining vigilant in this time of crisis is to recognize the Trump administration’s and Republicans’ actions for what they are.

Trump Adviser Says “Human Capital Stock” Should Get Back to Work

As the United States trembles on the verge of 100,000 COVID deaths and nearly 1.7 million confirmed infections — a “badge of honor” in the fetid mind of Donald Trump — the question of how we got to this horrific place stands out like a pustule on the skin of the nation. Trump has wielded outsize influence in driving this ship onto the reef, to be sure, but he has not acted alone.

Enter Kevin Hassett, current senior adviser and former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers for the White House. Men like Hassett pollute the Trump administration from the basement to the roof deck, and they have done much to turn a terrible situation into a nigh-inescapable nightmare.

Hassett has spent the last 21 years of his career being wrong. A creature of the American Enterprise Institute, the far right think tank that sought a more violent U.S. foreign policy by way of a “new Pearl Harbor” on the eve of September 11, Hassett made a name for himself by writing a book in 1999 predicting a huge upswing in the stock market. The dot-com bubble burst before the ink on his pages was dry, and the market cratered accordingly. So much for “Dow 36,000.”

Hassett assumed his current White House role on March 20, 2020. Despite having no experience whatsoever with infectious disease modeling, he began peddling a series of shabby models that grossly downplayed the severity of the crisis. According to Hassett, there would be no more COVID deaths by mid-May.

Hassett was roundly denounced by scientists, medical professionals and various commentators for these astonishing inaccuracies, but Trump embraced his nonsense “data” with the same enthusiasm as he embraced hydroxychloroquine and the injection of disinfectants as COVID cure-alls. Within the airtight bubble of the Trump White House, Hassett played the tune the boss wanted to hear, even as the bodies piled higher and higher.

On Sunday, as the nation observed Memorial Day weekend, Hassett went on CNN to again peddle his “No Big Deal” snake oil, and did so in a way that will not be soon forgotten. “Our capital stock hasn’t been destroyed,” he said of the damage done by COVID. “Our human capital stock is ready to get back to work. There are lots of reasons to believe that we can get going way faster than we have in previous crises.”

Our human capital stock is ready to get back to work.”

Stock (noun): farm animals such as cattle, pigs and sheep, bred and kept for their meat or milk; livestock.

Let that sink in good and deep, down through the skin and into the marrow within your bones. Hassett’s remarkable statement on Sunday puts into stark relief the reason why this disaster has unfolded as it has.

It is far more than mere gross incompetence. This White House does not see us as human beings with intrinsic value and rights of our own. We are cattle who exist only for the profit of the few, sheep to be sheared, pigs to be hung up for slaughter. To them, we are only meat for the machine, nothing more than an entirely expendable commodity.

The “human capital stock” being lethally affected by COVID no longer reside primarily in the nation’s large urban centers. “As the death toll nears 100,000, the disease caused by the virus has made a fundamental shift in who it touches and where it reaches in America,” reports The Washington Post. “The pandemic that first struck in major metropolises is now increasingly finding its front line in the country’s rural areas; counties with acres of farmland, cramped meatpacking plants, out-of-the-way prisons and few hospital beds.”

As social distancing strictures are eased in all 50 states to one degree or another, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, Utah and Virginia have all seen infection spikes of varying severity. Researchers at Imperial College London released a study reporting that COVID is still spreading at epidemic rates in at least 24 U.S. states, many of them far away from COVID epicenters like New York City.

In Texas, where authorities conflated data on active infections with data on antibodies testing to camouflage the severity of the situation, the mayor of Houston warned that his city’s medical infrastructure could not handle another spike in cases, even as revelers flouted safety strictures because the state decided being open for business was more important than human life.

Minnesota is dealing with a new spike in COVID cases requiring a record-high number of intensive care beds. Wisconsin just reported the largest three-day spike in cases since the pandemic began, even as images from the long weekend of hundreds of unmasked people grouped together at beer gardens rumbled across the newswires.

On April 16, I wrote this: “This is the very living essence of tragedy and farce. Trump has labored mightily to convince his people that this is all some sort of ruse to keep him from being re-elected, and millions of those people have swallowed it whole. This is a snake eating its own tail in real time while the snake-handler-in-chief cheers it on … except we are not talking about snakes. These are people, all of whom are somebody’s children, many of whom have children. They trusted Donald Trump, and that will get many of them killed while subsequently prolonging a pandemic that has already infected 2 million people worldwide.”

More than a month later, in the still-glaring absence of a national testing plan and with “Reopen Now” on the lips of Trump sycophants in government and media, a portion of that “human capital stock” spent the weekend trusting the words of this president as they crushed together in large groups with no defense against the virus.

Those people deserve their share of blame for following these fools with such misplaced partisan trust, but the fact remains that many of them would almost certainly not be partaking in such flagrantly dangerous behavior had they not received express permission from Trump, his right-wing allies, and from people like Kevin Hassett, who told us the “human capital stock” would stop dying by the middle of this month.

The COVID-19 pandemic is far from over, has only gotten started in the middle of the country, and will become worse by orders of magnitude so long as some people continue to believe the greedy, reckless words of this administration. You are not cattle. Please don’t act like it.

Places of worship ‘may not be safe’ for some, Birx says

 

Dr. Birx’s comments came on the first Sunday after Trump labeled the nation’s churches, temples and other places of worship “essential” and demanded that they reopen nationwide.

Deborah Birx

Places of worship “may not be safe for those with preexisting conditions” despite orders from President Donald Trump that they be allowed to reopen immediately, White House coronavirus coordinator Deborah Birx said Sunday.

“Although it may be safe for some to go to churches and social distance, it may not be safe for those with pre-existing conditions,” Birx told Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday. “That’s why in ‘phase one’ and ‘phase two,’ we’ve asked for those individuals with vulnerabilities to really ensure that they are protected and sheltering in place while we open up America.”

Birx’s comments came on the first Sunday after Trump labeled the nation’s churches, temples and other places of worship “essential” and demanded that they reopen nationwide despite still-rising coronavirus cases and several reports of the illness spreading among congregants.

Trump on Friday emphasized he was instructing governors to allow places of worship to resume operations “right now,” and warned that “if there’s any question, they’re going to have to call me — but they are not going to be successful in that call.”

Asked about the wisdom of such a move in the face of warnings from public health experts, Birx pointed to the CDC guidance that directed faith leaders how to “reopen safely.”

“Before the president made that announcement, he asked the CDC to get their guidance to churches up, so that churches could reopen safely, so that guidance is up there and available to all churches and congregants to understand how to worship together safely,” Birx said on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday. “Certainly worshiping outside, maintaining social distancing, and you know, honestly not having physical contact with each other and that’s — I know that’s difficult.”

“But the guidance was up before the churches were asked to reopen, and I think that’s really important.”

Republicans have seized on Trump’s call to reopen shuttered places of worship.

“We have a right to worship,” Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” as he repeatedly invoked the Bill of Rights. “Absolutely do I feel comfortable going to church.”

Asked on “Fox News Sunday” about reports of Memorial Day weekend crowds, Birx replied that she is “very concerned when people go out and don’t maintain social distancing.”

“And out of respect for each other, as Americans that care for each other, we need to be wearing masks in public when we cannot social distance,” she said.

Asked whether Trump should wear a mask when he himself is unable to social distance, Birx responded: “The president did wear a mask when he was less than six feet.” There have been several reports of the president declining to cover his face when visiting states and hosting leaders.

Inslee’s office responds to Trump church reopen demand


Hours after President Donald Trump threatened to override the governors of states that have not yet fully reopened their churches or places of religious worship, Gov. Jay Inslee’s office on Friday pushed back on the sweeping statement by the White House.

“Today, I am identifying houses of worship — churches, synagogues, and mosques — as essential places that provide essential services,” Trump said at a hastily-scheduled White House briefing Friday. “Some governors have deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential but have left out churches and other houses of worship. It’s not right.”

But a spokeswoman for Inslee rebuked the president’s statement.

“Our office continues to work with spiritual leaders and health experts to identify ways to do this safely,” the governor’s office said in a written statement to KOMO News Radio. “While we have read the president’s comments, there is no order and we think he understands at this point that he can’t dictate what states can or cannot open.”

Local religious leaders are encouraging the stage to release guidelines that will allow them to resume church service.

Washington state leaders are proceeding with a phased approach to reopening the state. Those phases are:

  • Phase 1: Some outdoor recreation are allowed but the state’s ban on large gatherings will remain and and only certain businesses, including construction, landscaping, automobile sales and curb-side pick up for retail sales are permitted.
  • Phase 2: Outdoor recreation of five or less are permitted along with in-store purchases retailers, with some restrictions, real estate transactions and hair salons and barbers are allowed to resume their operations. Restaurants can re-open provided they can accommodates half of their capacity with tables that seat no more than five people.
  • Phase 3: The size of outdoor groups grows to up to 50 peoples and non-essential travel is permitted; The capacity of restaurants grows to 70 percent but tables can not seat more than 10 peoples; movie theaters can reopen.
  • Phase 4: Public interactions resume with physical distancing; gatherings of more than 50 people are allowed; clubs, concerts and large sporting events are permitted.

Inslee’s office had scheduled a news conference for Thursday morning to talk about their guidelines for reopening places of religious worship. But that event with reporters was canceled several hours before it was set to begin with Inslee’s staff saying the guidance was not yet ready.

Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral will sit empty this holiday weekend and for some time to come.

“We will not be in the first wave of churches reopening,” said Rev. Steve Thomason, dean at the cathedral.

Thomason said their live stream has been attracting more people than their in-person services, and even at the president’s urging they are in no rush to reopen.

“It may take us several more weeks, even months perhaps,” Thomason said.

The pastor at OURchurch in University Place sees it differently.

“Well I perceive that the president’s comment gives us a lot more latitude,” said Pastor Dean Curry.

OURChurch is already offering drive-in services and Curry said with proper safety measures going inside a church is just as safe as a big box store.

“We’ll probably open up to small, controlled gatherings in the middle of June but we want to do it safe and we want to do it in the best interest of people,” Curry said.

Several religious leaders said they were eagerly waiting for the state to announce the guidelines that would allow them to begin reopening their doors.

Those close to the talks with religious groups told KOMO News the guidelines may initially just be for outdoor services, with a ban remaining on indoor services.

The Seattle Catholic Archdiocese said it could support that initial step.

“The advantage to an outdoor celebration, from our perspective, is it greatly reduces the possibility of virus transmission, especially with social distancing taking place,” said Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Mueggenborg. “It makes sanitization much easier as opposed to an indoor worship space, and it also allows us to accommodate larger numbers of people.”

Right now drive-in services are the only in-person activities allowed, such as what is happening at OURChurch or at New Life Church in Renton. They have another one set for Saturday at 7 p.m. to go along with their online services, with more options set to be rolled out soon.

“There could be both an indoor and an outdoor option again for safety and health,” said Brian Jenkins, pastor at New Life Church. “We are able to utilize our facility in a way that allows us to be as flexible as possible and still maintain those important safety guidelines.”

Other religious leaders agreed.

“We certainly want to open up safely,” said Kevin Gerald, pastor of Champions Centre in Tacoma. “We want to open up smaller than normal. We want to have only a certain capacity of people within the building. My hope is that we would be treated like other gathering places.”

Gerald said he wants similar treatment that restaurants get when counties move to phase 2 along with a limit to how many worshippers are allowed in. Church visitors will also be required to maintain social distancing.

Officials at Temple Beth El in Tacoma expressed support for the same idea.

But they admit that visitors will still feel unsure about safety.

“We know even when we do start to meet in person, there will be members of our community who still want to stay safe because they have some conditions that will not allow them to attend,” said Rabbi Bruce Kadden.

Trump Says He Will Not “Close the Country” If Second Wave of Virus Hits

As several states across the nation remove their shelter-in-place orders and begin to reopen businesses, there remains a looming possibility of a second wave of coronavirus cases.

Yet if that happens, President Donald Trump said this week he will not call for another round of similar measures to stem the spread of the disease.

Speaking to reporters while touring a Ford Motor factory in Michigan on Thursday, the president recognized the likelihood of a second wave of COVID-19 but rejected the idea of another round of stay-at-home rules to contain the spread of the virus if it happens.

Most experts agree that the resurgence of COVID-19 is certain to happen. In an interview with The Washington Post this week, Anthony Fauci, a member of Trump’s coronavirus task force and the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said it was “inevitable” that a second wave would come.

“The virus is not going to disappear. It’s a highly transmissible virus,” Fauci said. “At any given time, it’s some place or another. As long as that’s the case, there’s a risk of resurgence.”

While a second wave of COVID-19 is widely expected, there appears to be no consensus among experts on how to prepare for it. On the same day that Trump made his comments at the Ford factory, Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), did not rule out the possibility of implementing another round of shelter-in-place rules across the country if and when a second wave came about.

“I can’t guarantee — that’s kind of getting into the opinion mode, we have to be data-driven,” Redfield said. “What I can say is that we are committed to using the time that we have now to get this nation as overprepared as possible.”

Megan Ranney, an emergency physician and a researcher at Brown University, told members of Congress this week that the United States is not ready for another spike in coronavirus cases when it comes.

Ranney put it in blunt terms: “I do not think that we are currently prepared for a second wave,” she said.

Ranney pointed to a lack of financial support to address the needs of combating the disease.

“We still lack adequate science. I’m so thankful for the funding that you all have given to the [National Institutes of Health] and CDC, but that’s not enough, and we need more,” she added.

Most Americans seem to share her concerns. According to an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll published this week, 77 percent of American adults say that they worry about a second wave of coronavirus happening as more businesses across the country reopen. Less than a quarter of the American populace said they weren’t that concerned about it.

Trump sons provoke outrage with baseless attacks on Biden and lockdown

The interventions by Donald Trump Jr and Eric Trump fit into a reported Republican ‘smokescreen’ strategy to distract voters from the pandemic and economic crisis.

The interventions by Donald Trump Jr and Eric Trump fit into a reported Republican ‘smokescreen’ strategy to distract voters from the pandemic and economic crisis. Photograph: Carlos Barría/Reuters

 in New York
Published onMon 18 May 2020 11.36 EDT

Donald Trump Jr and Eric Trump, the US president’s oldest sons, have attracted fierce criticism for attacking Joe Biden and Democrats in terms most observers considered beyond the pale even in America’s toxic political climate.

Trump Jr posted to Instagram a meme which baselessly insinuated that Biden, his father’s probable opponent at the polls in November, was a pedophile.

Eric Trump claimed Democrats were using the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed nearly 90,000 in America, for political gain.

Both claims were made on Saturday.

In the face of fierce opprobrium, Trump Jr said he had been “joking around”.

But he also pursued the matter, accusing the former vice-president of “unwanted touching” and including in a tweet pictures taken from congressional swearing-in ceremonies and presented in misleading fashion.

In a statement, Biden’s spokesman, Andrew Bates, said: “No repulsive, manipulative tactic will change the subject from how almost 90,000 Americans have paid for Donald Trump’s coronavirus negligence with their lives and how the booming economy he inherited from the Obama-Biden administration is now suffering from depression-level job losses.”

Biden has faced and acknowledged accusations of inappropriate touching from adult women. He is accused of sexual assault by Tara Reade, a former Senate staffer. The former vice-president flatly denies the claim.

Donald Trump has been accused of sexual misconduct or assault by multiple women. Though he was recorded boasting about grabbing women by the genitals, he denies all such accusations.

In 2016, five women who were contestants in the 1997 Miss Teen USA pageant told BuzzFeed that Trump, who owned the event, barged into dressing rooms while they were changing and made no attempt to leave. Trump’s campaign dismissed the claims. Trump has admitted to such behaviour at adult pageants.

Earlier this year Trump Jr, 42, told Axios his father sometimes tells him to tone down his attacks on Twitter. His response, he said, was: “I learned it by watching you.”

Eric Trump, 36, spoke to the Fox News host Jeanine Pirro on Saturday night. He accused Democrats of using the coronavirus outbreak for political and electoral gain.

“You watch,” he said, “they’ll milk it every single day between now and 3 November [election day]. And guess what, after 3 November, coronavirus will magically, all of a sudden, go away and disappear and everybody will be able to reopen.”

Biden responded again, with his communications director, Kate Bedingfield, saying: “We’re in the middle of the biggest public health emergency in a century, with almost 90,000 Americans dead, 1.5 million infected and 36 million workers newly jobless.

“So for Eric Trump to claim that the coronavirus is a political hoax that will ‘magically’ disappear is absolutely stunning and unbelievably reckless.”

Most public health experts expect the pandemic to remain a serious problem in the US for months to come, with serious danger of a deadly resurgence later in the year.

On Monday, the Associated Press reported on how the Trump campaign is revving up “smokescreen” efforts to distract voters from the pandemic and economic crisis as the election gathers pace.

Attacks on Biden such as those pursued by Trump Jr are thereby part of a wide-ranging attempt to echo attacks on Hillary Clinton, Trump’s opponent in 2016.

The AP reported that “Biden’s team doesn’t believe a pervasive narrative like ‘Hillary’s emails’ will shadow this campaign”.

Mike Donilon, a longtime Biden adviser, was quoted as saying: “We have a president who doesn’t want to talk about the central issue in this campaign right now. This isn’t new. It’s not like Trump started attacking the vice-president today or yesterday. He’s been at him all year long.”

Donilon said “people have a really good understanding of who Joe Biden is”.

But Jason Miller, a former Trump campaign adviser, said accelerating, aggressive and unscrupulous attacks on Biden were “a reminder that Trump is the outsider trying to take on those who were entrenched in power for decades”.

Trump: Without Coronavirus Testing ‘We Would Have Very Few Cases,’ Here Is The Reaction

In a speech on Thursday at Owens and Minor, a medical supply distributor located in Allentown, PA, President Donald Trump wondered whether testing for Covid-19 coronavirus is “overrated.” He then proceeded to say, “And don’t forget, we have more cases than anybody in the world. But why? Because we do more testing.”

Next, he clarified: “When you test, you have a case. When you test, you find something is wrong with people. If we didn’t do any testing, we would have very few cases.”

Whoa, is that how it works? That would change everything. The sound that you are hearing might be that of minds blown around the country. Perhaps, it’s sort of like when you first heard that Santa Claus is not the one who delivered those presents to your living room. Although you knew that the chimney in your house led to the furnace, it took a little time for you to put two-and-two together.

Sure, there are those statistics that paint a grim picture of what’s happening in the U.S. For example, as of today, over 85,000 people in the U.S. have already died from Covid-19, which is by far tops in the world. That number is well above the next highest country tally, the 33,693 reported deaths that have occurred in the United Kingdom.

Sure, many, many public health experts have continued to push for much more widespread testing.

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Sure, there is really no other way besides testing to tell who actually has the virus and where it may be spreading.

Sure, not knowing this information can be like playing in a football game without being able to see the field. But could testing actually be like sex on the beach or England’s men’s football team: overrated?

That’s what Trump suggested testing may be during his speech when he said, “it could be the testing’s, frankly, overrated? Maybe it is overrated,” as seen in this ABC News video:

More testing, more cases of Covid-19 coronavirus infections? Less testing, fewer cases? Well, that’s a different way to look at things.

This revelation left various folks on social media wondering what else may be different and whether they’ve been approaching many things in life the wrong way all along. Certainly, it’s clear that ignoring some problems can make them go away. For example, if your friends keep telling you to bathe more, ignoring that nagging will likely eventually make your friends go away. Problem solved.

But what about major health and public health problems? Is the opposite of the saying, “if you can see it, you can be it” true? Maybe if you can’t see it, you can’t be it. Well, @DrRobDavidson asked, “what else could we eliminate if we just stopped looking for it,” and got some answers:

In this case, “some answers” meant 228 replies and counting. You can see one reply above from @MarcSmithEsq, who may be on to something. Could there be no obesity epidemic and instead, be a scale epidemic? If so, could those darn scales be invading homes around the country and the world, leading to what can only be described as a “large-scale” problem?

If this were true, this could open up a “A Whole New World” for doctors. Could they simply say “ferget about it” or “just walk it off” much more often? Perhaps doctors, many of whom have been facing burn-out even before the pandemic, could instead be left with a whole lot more free time, as @WFKARS suggested in ALL CAPS:

That could leave even more time to do paperwork. Then there’s the whole issue of contraception:

That’s not exactly what they teach in sex-ed class between the birds material and the bees material. However, @DebPearlstein pointed out that such an approach could be something that you already knew as a kid, you know before all that schooling stuff:

Imagine how much easier life could be if you didn’t have to know stuff or find out information. Ah, but along came some party-poopers, trying to burst everyone’s bubbles with all that silly fact-checking stuff:

There someone goes again, bringing up science. The argument is that the virus will keep on infecting, keep on spreading, and keep on killing people, even if you ignore it. It’s not as if the virus is clenching it’s spikes and hoping, “please test that person, please test that person,” so that it can then infect someone. It’s not as if COVID-19 is a debatable condition or something that can’t make you sick or kill you. It’s real and it’s the opposite of spectacular.

Sigh. Whatever happened to the saying, “ignorance is bliss?”

Well, unfortunately, here’s the reality check. The U.S. has already tried the “not-testing-enough” strategy, otherwise known as the “not-look-for-the-virus” strategy. How has that worked out for the country? Not so great. Without enough testing being done, it’s been difficult to identify who exactly may be infected with the Covid-19 coronavirus or where the virus may be spreading. Without this info you can’t do the test-trace-isolate strategy that I described previously for Forbes. You can’t really selectively shut down places or just try to contain the virus by identifying and isolating those who came into contact with an infected person. Without testing info, the U.S. has had to rely on more drastic social distancing measures than those used in countries such as Taiwan and Singapore. That’s not exactly winning.

Although Trump didn’t say that he was being sarcastic in his speech, to be fair, you can’t completely rule out that possibility. Recall what happened after he said on April 23 at a press conference, “I see the disinfectant that knocks it out in a minute, one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside or almost a cleaning?” As Stephanie Sarkis described for Forbes, the very next day, when a reporter questioned Trump about that question, the President explained, “I was asking a question sarcastically to reporters like you just to see what would happen.”

The country is in the midst of a public health emergency right now that requires a coordinated response. Therefore, clear, transparent, consistent and scientifically-based communication to the public is especially important. Testing has long been an essential part of the public health response to an infectious disease epidemic. Without seeing where an opponent is, especially a completely new one, it’s difficult to game plan and know how to stop it. Maybe members of the media don’t quite understand this whole sarcasm thing in the middle of a pandemic.

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Trump says he’s mobilizing military to distribute potential coronavirus vaccine

[Trump’s “Mission Accomplished” moment?]

President Trump said Thursday he would prepare the U.S. military to disburse COVID-19 vaccines when they are ready.

“We’re mobilizing our military and other forces, but we’re mobilizing our military on the basis that we do have a vaccine,” Trump said in an interview with Fox Business’s Maria Bartiromo.

“You know, it’s a massive job to give this vaccine. Our military is now being mobilized so at the end of the year we’re going to be able to give it to a lot of people very, very rapidly,” he added.

The president announced Wednesday that he would place Army Gen. Gustave Perna as chief operation officer for Operation Warp Speed, the administration’s program targeting a fast development for COVID-19 vaccines.

Trump also said on Thursday that he expects a ready vaccine by the end of 2020. However, projections from the nation’s leading infectious disease expert and coronavirus task force member Anthony Fauci cautioned earlier this year that a vaccine could take 12 to 18 months.

According to data from Johns Hopkins University, the U.S. has recorded more than 85,000 deaths from the virus since the outbreak hit the nation.

Trump estimated in the interview that there will be a total of more than 100,000 deaths in the country.

Trump Pressures CDC to Lower COVID Death Count by Changing Calculation Method

President Donald Trump has privately expressed doubts about the coronavirus death toll in the United States, telling aides he believes the number is too high and overcounted.

Earlier this month, Axios reported that Trump had been mulling over the numbers, which he’s suggested are inflated. A number of aides surrounding the president have expressed agreement with him.

“The numbers have been revised up to include presumptive cases — meaning deaths that are believed to be related to COVID but not known for sure…. So he’s expressed the need to properly convey that to American people so they’re not startled by why numbers ticked up,” one official told the news site.

As of Wednesday morning, more than 83,000 deaths from coronavirus have been reported within the United States.

Some of those pressuring the CDC include members of the White House coronavirus task force, including Deborah Birx, who serves as the response coordinator for the team. Birx is not presently part of the CDC (before working with the task force, she was part of the State Department) but has worked within the agency in the past.

Many who are close to Trump have expressed doubts about the ways deaths are being calculated, and some have pushed demonstrably false narratives about which deaths are attributed to coronavirus.

“When you attribute a death to the coronavirus today, what that means is that the guy had the coronavirus and died,” Art Laffer, a conservative economist who often advises the president, said. “It doesn’t matter if he got hit by a car and died, and he would still be categorized as a coronavirus death.”

Bob Anderson, chief of the mortality statistics branch at the CDC, pushed back on Laffer’s comments, saying that physicians, when trying to document a cause of death in a patient, are asked: “Did the patient die as a result of this illness?”

“It doesn’t say ‘Did this patient die?’” Anderson told The Daily Beast.

Officials at the CDC are reportedly pushing back against the efforts to change its calculations.

“The system can always get better,” one unnamed official at that agency told the publication. “But if we’ve learned anything it’s that we’re seeing some of these individuals who have died of the virus slip through the cracks. It’s not that we’re overcounting.”

Anderson said the coronavirus death count is the opposite of exaggerated.

“I don’t worry about this overreporting issue. We’re almost certainly underestimating the number of deaths,” he said.

Indeed, his view is shared by one of the most trusted individuals in the U.S. today on COVID-19, Anthony Fauci, who is also part of the coronavirus task force. On Tuesday, while speaking in front of a Senate committee on the issue of the disease, Fauci explained why the count was probably a conservative estimate.

“Most of us feel that the number of deaths are likely higher than that number because given the situation particularly in New York City, when they were really strapped with a very serious challenge to their health care system, that there may have been people who died at home who were not counted as COVID because they never really got to the hospital,” he explained.

Early counts of coronavirus may have been missed entirely. Data from a number of studies have demonstrated that thousands of “excess deaths” were discovered in the U.S. in March and April, that haven’t yet been attributed to coronavirus. The sheer volume of deaths that exceed the mortality statistics normally seen around this time of year in the country suggests that many of these deaths were likely due to COVID-19.

Ousted Vaccine Agency Director Will Testify That Our “Darkest Winter” Is Ahead

Rick Bright, the former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), is testifying before Congress today, and it’s going to be 40 miles of bad road for Donald Trump. It is also going to be the hard, unvarnished truth the entire country needs to hear.

Earlier in the week, Trump had to suffer through the congressional testimony of his hostage, Anthony Fauci, who contradicted Trump’s lethal happy talk about reopening the country while the COVID pandemic still rages. Now Trump has Bright to contend with, and by all reports, Bright will reiterate Fauci’s warning with a side of ghost peppers and actual fire.

“Rick Bright is the former director of BARDA, a Health and Human Services sub-agency whose purview is ‘preparing the nation for influenza pandemics and coordinating production, acquisition and delivery of medical countermeasures during a pandemic response,’” I wrote a little over a week ago.

So Trump knocked Bright out of the box for “disloyalty,” but now he’s back, and look out below. Bright’s prepared opening statement for his testimony before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s health subcommittee today details the myriad ways the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) blew through warning after warning in their quest for good press and favorable polls, even as the body count spun upward like a Manhattan taxi meter.

“I spoke out then and I am testifying today,” reads the prepared statement, “because science — not politics or cronyism — must lead the way to combat this deadly virus.” Taken as a whole, Bright’s statement is a thunderclap warning to all of us, and a shot across the bow of the foundering USS Trump:

Our window of opportunity is closing. If we fail to develop a national coordinated response, based in science, I fear the pandemic will get far worse and be prolonged, causing unprecedented illness and fatalities. While it is terrifying to acknowledge the extent of the challenge that we currently confront, the undeniable fact is there will be a resurgence of the COVID19 this fall, greatly compounding the challenges of seasonal influenza and putting an unprecedented strain on our health care system. Without clear planning and implementation of the steps that I and other experts have outlined, 2020 will be darkest winter in modern history.

In his statement, Bright makes it clear that the country needs conscientious leadership first and foremost: “[O]ur leaders must lead by modeling the behavior” necessary to keep the virus from spreading, which includes wearing masks and practicing social distancing.

Bright will underscore the mortal need for a comprehensive national strategy, and pause for a moment to encompass the unbelievable fact that we still lack such a plan after all these weeks and with more than 80,000 dead. Bright’s statement calls for “tests that are accurate, rapid, easy to use, low cost, and available to everyone who needs them.” For myself, I believe the tests should be free, but we can have that argument once we actually have the damn tests.

Trump has been frantically, and often incoherently, making the argument that COVID is on the wane, and the number of cases is dropping “all throughout the country.” Yet data compiled by his very own White House shows a 1,000 percent spike in rural areas of Tennessee and Kansas, and a 400 percent spike in cases in rural areas in Missouri, Nebraska, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

In Michigan, the right-wing gun-toting protesters who have been marching on the Capitol in Lansing and threatening the life of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer are catching COVID and spreading it in the rural communities where they live. These are the people Trump has been egging on for weeks, and that behavior is going to get a whole lot of people sick and dead before the Fourth of July, if the COVID pattern holds. This thing doesn’t care what you think. It wants your lungs and your life.

It is far past time to bring this Monster’s Ball to an end. Trump has been publicly dismissive of Anthony Fauci, and will likely have some twisted tweets to offer regarding the testimony of Rick Bright. Bright will be the blue plate special for Sean Hannity and the other propagandists on Fox News. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Perhaps, however, people will hear Bright’s words and heed them, and stay home, and stay alive. It is the best we can hope for in this strange and bitter age we live in. His testimony begins at 10:00 am Eastern time. Pull up a chair, and watch or listen as science puts this president in his place.