Waves of Condemnation

Alan Zendell, October 29. 2020

When a president, particularly one as unsuited for the job as Donald Trump uses personal loyalty as his sole criterion for selecting Cabinet and staff positions, we will invariably wind up with a government comprised of three kinds of people: sycophants, career professionals who recognize the president’s failings but choose to do their jobs in silence, and those whose commitment to their oath to the American people forces them to speak out.

That last is not easy to do. It requires courage, fortitude, and a willingness to subject oneself to vitriol and vicious personal attack. For high-ranking military and cabinet officers, it is even more difficult because of long-standing traditions that prohibit political attacks on a president by former subordinates. Yet, this year, we have heard former Secretary of Defense James Mattis, former National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster, former White House Chief of Staff General John Kelly, and Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley all speak out publicly against the president.

It is without precedent in the modern era for people at that level of government to describe Donald Trump as “unfit to be president,” “the most flawed individual I’ve ever known,” “unfocused,” and “a threaten to national security.” Now, they are followed daily by public health experts on the Coronavirus Task Force. Anthony Fauci, Deborah Birx, and Admiral Brett Giroir have all decided that telling the truth and trying to save hundreds of thousands of lives takes precedence over loyalty to the president. They are pulling the curtain back to reveal that the Wizard is a fake, that he has lied to the American people about the pandemic and the need to wear masks and remain distanced from each other. They have acknowledged that up to 90% of the pandemic-related deaths in this country can be laid at the president’s feet.

People have attacked Trump for having no plan to combat the pandemic. He’s been called incompetent at managing it, but that never made sense, and we now know it’s wrong. Presidential son-in-law and Senior Advisor Jared Kushner told us as much in his own words, which journalist Bob Woodward recorded back in April. Thinking he was praising the president, Kushner made it clear that Trump never had any intention of managing the spread of the virus. His only interest was political, being re-elected. His plan was evil and immoral, but incompetent only in the sense that he misjudged the virus and it backfired on him.

We now know Trump had no intention of increasing testing or contact tracing. He had no interest in managing the manufacture millions of units of personal protective gear, and his only interest in the death counts of innocent Americans was deflecting responsibility away from himself to the State Governors. After the carnage, when vaccines became available, he intended to take full credit for revitalizing the economy. That’s downright sinister. It’s sick, and by itself ought to result not only in his defeat but in criminal charges.

As the election neared, we heard, among others, Republican Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and former RNC chairman Michael Steele refuse to endorse Trump. Former senior government people like Olivia Troye and Miles Taylor, have been speaking out publicly about the White House horror show they lived in for three years. The consensus of everyone but the sycophants who still prop Trump up is that he has no interest in anything except his own personal power and enrichment.

We’ve heard all that before, but in the final days of the campaign it has become a tsunami. Trump has no response except to call everyone who ever worked for him a disgruntled employee, which is probably true, but in no way invalidates their universal condemnation of him. And Trump continues to make it worse by campaigning in super-spreader rallies that show no concern for his most loyal supporters and spread the virus everywhere as infected attendees return home.

Let’s be clear. Trump understood from the start that there were two ways to achieve herd immunity. One is to follow the advice of infectious disease experts until a vaccine is available and minimize disease and death among the general population. The other is to allow the virus to spread throughout the population hoping that when most people have been infected they will be immune. There are problems with that approach. It costs many hundreds of thousands of lost lives, and there is no guarantee that immunity resulting from a previous infection is permanent. The latest studies show that it may be short term, only a few months.

Knowing all that as early as February, Donald Trump chose the latter because he calculated it was his best chance to be re-elected. At the very least that amounts to a few hundred thousand counts of negligent homicide.

Posted in Articles | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Stark Contrasts Ahead of the Election

Alan Zendell, October 26, 2020

Eight days to go, and if we didn’t have to worry about legal challenges, voter suppression, and ballot box sabotage, this election would seem open and shut. But this is 2020. In the America we knew before 2015, a president as unpopular as Donald Trump, who had shown such an unprecedented combination of incompetence and disregard for his own people wouldn’t have a chance of re-election.

The past few days showed us contrasts that couldn’t be clearer. First was Thursday night’s debate, during which Joe Biden stuck to his positive message of unity and rebuilding better after the pandemic, while Trump blustered and spouted conspiracy theories. Biden put forth policies in detail rarely seen in presidential debates, while Trump spoke from his own reality in which he has been the best president since Lincoln, promising to deliver an even better four years, with no policy specifics. In other words, nothing new except that Trump didn’t behave like a wild boar.

Then there were the already infamous Sixty Minutes interviews. Trump, angry, belligerent, and whiny, was visibly upset that he couldn’t deflect Leslie Stahl’s determination to ask pointed questions and refute his obvious lies, albeit gently, with a smile. Like a child who never learned how to deal with not getting his way, he abruptly stomped out of his last national television appearance, throwing a silent tantrum. Ms. Stahl would not accept his latest mantra, that we’re turning the corner with the pandemic, pointing out that COVID cases in the United States are rising at the fastest rate since the virus reached our shores.

The correlation between current outbreaks and the locations of Trump’s maskless rallies, combined with the Trump supported motorcycle rally in Sturgis, SD is obvious. Stahl re-stated that every time Trump tried to change the subject, and Trump couldn’t deal with it. After he took his marbles and went home, I almost felt sorry for the way Vice President Pence pathetically tried to clean up the mess he left in front of fifty million Americans watching on TV.

By contrast, Norah O’Donnell’s interviews with Biden and Kamala Harris were polite and to the point. Despite Trump’s constant whining about how he only gets tough questions while Biden gets softballs, Ms. O’Donnell pressed Biden on every hot button issue: fracking, the oil industry in general, the price tag for his environmental proposals, tax increases, the Supreme Court, race relations, and how he would go about safely re-opening the country’s economy and school systems. That’s quite a list, but there was no anger, no accusation of foul play, just calm, reasoned responses.

If that wasn’t enough of a contrast, Trump’s Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows told Jake Tapper on CNN that the Trump administration wasn’t even trying to control the spread of COVID. “It’s a very contagious virus,” he said, as if that were sufficient justification to go on with life as usual, ignoring CDC guidelines, and refusing to require masks or social distancing. I honestly can’t figure Meadows out. He seems like the perfect Trump loyalist, yet this wasn’t the first time he dropped a blockbuster, speaking out in the public media and infuriating the president. Is Meadows just a gaffe machine or does he have an active conscience that makes him tell the truth when American lives are at stake? Today, he was back to being Trump’s choir boy, defending White House Policy after the people closest to Mike Pence all tested positive for the virus.

What struck me most was the final contrast. Trump was running madly through the battleground states, holding rallies in front of a few thousand supporters at each stop. No, they’re not the largest rallies Trump ever had, as he claims. In 2016 he was drawing 20,000 at every stop. Now it’s more like a tenth of that. But two thousand unmasked supporters in tight spaces cheering his hate-filled rhetoric and unfounded attacks on both his current (Biden) and previous (Clinton) opponents must sound equally sweet to his loved-starved ears. It’s too bad the microparticles of COVID flying from mouth to mouth in the crowd don’t have a sound track he can hear. Would it matter if they did?

And while Trump stood by knowingly watching his supporters risk their lives and those of everyone they would later come in contact with, the video dropped by filmmaker Arun Chaudry of Joe Biden attending the memorial for the Parkland, FL school shooting was watched by millions of Americans. I’ve watched it ten times. The compassion and love that flows from Biden to young Corey Hixon, who took him by surprise with an emotional bearhug, makes my eyes water each time.

You can’t fake that stuff. It’s why Trump won’t stand a chance against Biden if there’s no foul play next Tuesday.

Posted in Articles | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Eleven More Days – the Final Stretch

Alan Zendell, October 23, 2020

Donald Trump spent most of this week demonstrating that he hasn’t lost a step when it comes to dominating the news cycle. Would he show up for the final debate with Joe Biden? Would he release the White House’s recording of Leslie Stahl’s Sixty Minutes interview (and in doing so violate their contract with CBS) due to air on October 25th? Would he order Attorney General Bill Barr and FBI Director Christopher Wray to announce a formal investigation into Hunter Biden’s laptops?

The answers are yes, yes, and no. For once, listening to advice from his campaign people, Trump wore his civilized human being persona to the debate, civilized in that he didn’t behave like a predatory animal. He actually followed the rules, helped greatly by no-nonsense moderator Kristin Welker, but I must stipulate that the debate rules did not require that a candidate tell the truth or refrain from making things up. What struck me most about Trump’s relatively meek reaction to Welker was what it said about his behavior at the first debate. He was roundly criticized for being unhinged in Cleveland, but the self-control he exhibited last night tells us that he wasn’t at all unhinged the first time. His bullying and interrupting were part of a deliberate, choreographed, strategy. I can’t decide which is worse.

Trump posted the thirty-eight minute interview with Stahl on Facebook yesterday, with the comment: “look at the bias, hatred and rudeness on behalf of 60 Minutes and CBS. Tonight’s anchor, Kristen Welker, is far worse!” The New York Times commented that “the footage shows Ms. Stahl…calmly and firmly asking the president about the coronavirus and other topics as Mr. Trump grows increasingly irritated.” If you have a half-hour to kill, click on the link and see for yourself. Whether or not he meant it, during last night’s debate, Trump complimented Welker on the way she handled it.

While at times, Bill Barr has seemed to relish the role of presidential lapdog, Cristopher Wray has displayed professionalism and independence since Trump appointed him. Despite Trump’s angry tweet “ARREST SOMEONE!” earlier this week, neither Barr nor Wray was willing to trash his own reputation with the laptop conspiracy theory after it was revealed that Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani had been punked by a Russian agent. But that didn’t stop Trump from bringing it up four times during the debate. Biden, who could have commented on the business practices of the Trump and Kushner families, instead told Trump, “This isn’t about our families. It’s about suffering American families.”

Trump spent the debate repeating his Fox News talking points. As he was at his rallies, he seemed more interested in evoking cheers from his base than expanding it. Instant polls following the debate showed an average twelve-point preference for Biden’s performance, which is right in line with the margin in recent national presidential polls. It’s difficult to imagine that any undecided voters found Trump’s threats, lies, and inability to offer any details about what a second term would look like compelling enough to change their minds.

For what it’s worth, virtually every commentator concluded that the debate did not affect the trajectory of the election. Compared to 2016, with eleven days until Election Day, Biden’s lead appears more sustainable than Hillary Clinton’s, and he will apparently not have to deal with a last-minute October surprise. Note the silence emanating from the Justice Department. Last time, Trump was able to weaponize people who felt left out by Democrats into an angry mob that swept him into office. This time, independents and many Republican seniors are angry at Trump over his abysmal handling of the pandemic. And while Hillary Clinton was a lightning rod for the right wing hate machine, Joe Biden is too well known and too decent a man for them to get their teeth in him.

Only a massive breakdown of the electoral process or a thoroughly co-opted Supreme Court offers Trump any hope of being re-elected. Even though undecided voters don’t have strong opinions about either candidate’s ideology or feel a bond with either of them, it’s clear that Joe Biden’s long record of compassion and a willingness to admit previous mistakes and commit to correcting them has great appeal for people who have been living in fear all year and are still worried about how to pay rent and put food on the table. Add to that the spectacle of rushing the confirmation of a Supreme Court Justice who Trump expects to support his attacks on Obamacare and mail-in voting, and even Vladimir Putin won’t be able to change the outcome.

Posted in Articles | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Election: What’s Really At Stake

Alan Zendell, October 20, 2020

The final two weeks of the 2020 election campaign will be a terribly stressful time for Americans. Millions are out of work, COVID-19 infections are exploding all over the country, and countless small businesses are failing. With millions of families unable to pay rent and waiting in line at food banks, we are caught in a tug-of-war among three leaders, none of whom is inclined to blink.

The president changes his mind about a new stimulus bill every day, some days contradicting himself repeatedly, depending on the audience he’s addressing. His latest pitch was to increase the dollar value of the stimulus beyond what even Nancy Pelosi wants, though it’s not clear what he’d spend it on. Mitch McConnell is plowing through with a bill that Senate Republicans may pass, but has no chance of becoming law. And Pelosi postured that there can be no deal if a framework is not agreed upon by close of business today because of all the steps required to pass a law by Election Day.

By the end of today, 35 million ballots will have been cast in in-person voting, which does not count absentee and mail-in ballots that have been mailed or deposited in drop boxes. That suggests one problem may have solved itself. Trump’s constant attacks on mail-in voting and the myriad legal challenges around receipt and postmark dates will continue beyond Election Day, but voters, concerned that Trump and Postmaster Louis DeJoy have sabotaged the postal service, have found a workaround. With two weeks until Election Day, the number of votes already cast in person exceeds a quarter of all the votes counted in 2016.

If we count all the early ballots mailed or delivered to drop boxes, 50 million people may have already voted. If voter participation reaches an unprecedented 150 million, we’re probably a third of the way there. If that trend continues, we could avoid a contested election.

By railing against mail-in voting, Trump may have defeated his own argument as voters take the election in their own hands, where it belongs. But not so fast – Republicans are mounting challenges to state election laws in swing states all over the country. They seem to have lost Round 1 as the Supreme Court let stand an appeals court ruling that Pennsylvania may count ballots received up to November 6th, three days past Election Day. But television legal pundits warn that should not be taken as a precedent that will affect rulings in other states.

In states in which the outcome depends on counting mail-in and absentee ballots, we may still see court challenges that go on indefinitely. What’s really at stake is the viability of our so-called democracy. Congressional gridlock over an obviously needed stimulus bill underlines the problem of a two-party system strangling in a hyper-partisan environment. If Congress remains dysfunctional now, it’s worth asking how it can ever regain its effectiveness and the confidence of the American people.

The reality is actually worse than that. You might ask why, when House and Senate Republicans on the ballot are frantically distancing themselves from the president, the legal challenges persist. The easy answer is that Trump has thown his party into such disarray, those challenges may be the only hope for people who have clung to Trump’s coattails to avoid being dragged down with him if he loses.

Two critical questions remain. One is who is paying for all these court challenges. Big money is being spent to explore every possible way Trump can eke out an electoral college victory, though if he wins re-election while losing the popular vote by a large margin, that won’t help Republican House and Senate candidates. The big money is being spent in a last ditch effort to protect the wealth of white billionaires who are terrified of national health insurance and higher taxes.

That might have been a long shot if Ruth Bader Ginsburg were still on the bench, which is the crux of the current problem. If Amy Coney Barrett takes her seat on the Court before Election Day, she will be the deciding vote on all election challenges. To be fair, we cannot possibly know how she would vote, despite Trump’s confidence that she will side with him. The most important question may be whether Justice Barrett recuses herself on matters related to the election.

Questions of propriety aside, Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham have made it crystal clear that the rush to confirm Barrett is all about the election. Trump said, “I need her on the Court” before Election Day. If Justice Barrett, who calls herself a constitutional originalist allows herself to be used to undermine the election, she will demonstrate a total lack of integrity.

Unfortunately, knowing that won’t do the rest of us any good. If she is true to the words she uttered during her confirmation hearings, she must recuse herself.

Posted in Articles | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Trump’s Latest Reveals

Alan Zendell, October 18, 2020

I’ve written that despite his bluster, lies, and exaggerations, if you listen carefully, you can always discern the truth behind Donald Trump’s words. There were two such examples last week in his raucous super-spreader campaign events.

Campaigning in Pennsylvania, amid a typical barrage of hate-filled rhetoric and crazy conspiracy theories, Trump got real for a minute looking out at the crowd, half of which appeared to be suburban white women. Although the women at the rally adored him enough to put their lives at risk to hear him speak, he must have had an epiphany, realizing how much of that demographic, which he won handily in 2016, has turned against him. He put on a face like a spoiled little boy and whined, “Suburban women, will you please like me? I saved your damn neighborhoods, ok?”

He reminded me of Dennis the Menace, the blonde tow-haired ten-year-old boy who was always getting into trouble and then pouting when he was punished. For five years, Trump has been setting exactly the wrong example for suburban women who try to instill values and morality in their children. He has increased the stress level of almost every American family, and unlike young Dennis, his mischief isn’t based on misguided good intentions.

On the other hand, like Dennis, master manipulator and con man Donald Trump thought putting on his saccharine sweet expression and virtually begging for their support would change those mothers’ minds. But they know the difference between a sweet little boy who can’t help getting into trouble and a hateful, narcissistic adult who cares more about himself than the millions of Americans he swore to protect. Hollow as his plea was, it may have been the only sincere words thing uttered at that rally.

His principal base of support is shrinking, but in a population of 330 million, it’s not difficult to round up a few thousand people to attend his rallies and cheer for him. He desperately needs their adulation, a reveal that anyone can see. As his niece, psychologist Mary Trump explained, her uncle Donald has never felt loved, and it’s left to all of us to ease his pain. Poor Donald.

He feels persecuted by everyone that refuses to kneel at his feet and pledge fealty to him. To be sure, a lot of people are out to get him to hold him accountable for his actions. No doubt, he feels hounds nipping at his heels but he is not an innocent victim. They represent the people he has hurt.

Friday, in Florida, he was more manic than usual, which some doctors attribute to the steroids he takes to shield him against the effects of COVID-19. The polls continued to predict a dire outcome for him on Election Day, and every passing day, with millions of Americans already voting, there were fewer voters left to convince. The only things Trump hates more than losing are Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and it was sinking in, as his Department of Justice was not producing new scandals for him to tout, that he was probably going to lose.

When he addressed that possibility to a group of Florida seniors, whose votes he desperately needs, he said, “If I lose, I might have to leave the country.” A good friend, a very smart guy who often sees the world differently from me, interpreted that as clever and witty, an ironic response to Americans who wring their hands and say they’ll move to Canada if Trump wins again. There may actually have been an element of that – it would be a mistake to view Trump’s thought process as simple and one-dimensional.

I believe there was literal truth in Trump’s words. He is incapable of controlling the impulse to talk about things that upset him. When he said he might have to leave the country he told us a couple of things. One is that despite his bravado, he knows that he is despised by three out of every five Americans. There will be no more lucrative network television contracts for him if he loses, and those were the only things keeping his financial empire above water.

More importantly, he knows that the moment he leaves office he will be hounded by his creditors and state and local prosecutors who believe he is guilty of fraud and racketeering. He also knows that while Joe Biden will undoubtedly shield him from federal prosecution because his primary goal is to heal the divisions in the country, Biden cannot shield him from indictment by State Attorneys General and local prosecutors. He knows he may face financial ruin and years of defending himself in court if he stays here.

I’ll bet you a dollar Rudy Guiliani is preparing a list of countries that do not have extradition treaties with the United States.

Posted in Articles | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Cynical Case for Herd Immunity

Alan Zendell, October 15, 2020

A group of Iowa farmers erected this billboard to guide people to Wednesday’s rally at the Des Moines, IA airport. As rich as the English language is in adjectives and adverbs, it is insufficient to describe the utter chutzbah the sign represents.

Was it meant as a sick joke? Was it sarcasm? Or was it simply an in-your-face slap at Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx? Whichever, it was an implied insult to the people of Iowa, in particular to Trump’s loyal base there. It says loud and clear that Trump views his supporters as expendable losers whose only value to him is the votes they cast.

Of all the things Trump has said and done as president, this sign may be the most outrageous. He spends a large portion of every rally telling his audience that the pandemic is over, that we’ve defeated the COVID-19 virus and it’s fading away. All that while the number of new recorded cases in the United States approached 60,000 and the number of new COVID-related deaths exceeded 1,000 yesterday in a rising trend. This, as new data released by the CDC about unexpected deaths nationwide suggest that deaths from COVID are probably being undercounted by at least 50%.

Yesterday, writing about Trump’s election end game, I said I had no idea what was going on in Trump’s mind. His nonstop schedule of rallies in which hardly any of the attendees wear masks and people are packed in as tightly as possible seemed to me to be spiteful more than anything else. Nobel laureate, economist Paul Krugman wrote as much in a New York Times Op-ed last Sunday: “We must assume, based on all evidence, that Donald Trump’s primary motivation is not rooted in any political calculus, but is pure, unadulterated spite.” 

I no longer have no idea what Trump is thinking. Consider how his version of pandemic-related events evolved in recent weeks. First, he claimed that he took heroic action in banning travel from China and saved two million American lives, which was supposed to make voters feel gratitude that his policies have so far resulted in only 217,000 deaths. Having recovered from his own case of COVID after a combination of treatments no other American could expect to receive, he decided that the virus was “no big deal” and people should stop worrying about it.

With the release of the Great Barrington Declaration, signed by a group of scientists and medical professionals that has been unversally condemned by the mainstream public health community, we see what Trump’s final play is. The Declaration says two things. One is that people who are at low risk of serious complications and death from COVID should go about their lives normally – no masks, no social distancing – with the deliberate intent of allowing the virus to spread through the community until herd immunity is achieved. And while this is going on, we’re supposed to identify and isolate those seriously at risk to protect them from being infected.

The CDC estimates that such an approach would result in at least two million more deaths, and possibly many more. I suppose Trump thinks that’s a fair trade for the two million he claims to have already saved. But the bottom line is that the idea, as underlined by the aforementioned billboard in Iowa, is a cynical statement that those who die in the service of Trump’s re-election campaign are expendable. Attitudes like this are reminiscent of Joseph Stalin using tens of millions of people as cannon fodder to stop the Nazi advance during World War 2.

Interviewed by ABC News this morning, Anthony Fauci said, “this idea that we have the power to protect the vulnerable is total nonsense … and you’ll wind up with many more … hospitalizations and deaths. So I think that we just got to look that square in the eye and say it’s nonsense.” And WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called herd immunity “scientifically and ethically problematic. … Never in the history of public health has herd immunity been used as a strategy for responding to an outbreak, let alone a pandemic.”

Tedros’ point is that the concept of herd immunity is only used in conjuction with an effective vaccine. In that context, achieving herd immunity tells us that the vaccine worked. The Great Barrington Declaration’s approach is equivalent to throwing people into a pit of vipers to see how many develop immunity to snake venom.

Mandarin philosophy has always held that it is both moral and necessary to sacrifice the present generation when it is deemed necessary for the benefit of future poopulations. Yet even the Chinese Communists, while lying about the extent of the COVID virus, took the most draconian measures of any major nation to stop the spread of the virus to save lives. Trying to achieve herd immunity through mass infection was too cynical even for Xi Jinping, but not apparently, for Donald Trump.

Posted in Articles | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Trump’s Stretch Run Strategy

Alan Zendell, October 14, 2020

I can’t help but wonder what’s going on in Trump’s head these days. His rants and actions appear true to form: brash, offensive, divisive, his own unique blend of truth, lies, and hyperbole. None of that should surprise anyone who paid attention for the last five years. But considering what is at stake, I can’t make sense of his stretch run strategy.

He made it clear in 2016 that he disdained traditional campaigns and had no respect for professionals who’d been managing political candidates for decades. He claimed that his instincts served him better than all their collective advice. Since he won, the easy conclusion is that he was right. But many of the factors that turned the election his way had nothing to do with strategy.

Would James Carville or David Axelrod have consorted with Julian Assange? Would Karl Rove have violated federal law by soliciting support from a foreign adversarial government? Were the actions of then FBI Director James Comey or Hillary Clinton’s inexplicable mishandling of Benghazi and her infamous emails examples of Trump’s brilliance? What I saw was ineptitude on the part of Clinton’s campaign advisors.

What Trump calls his native, instinctive talent is a combination of being driven by his narcissistic need for adulation and a carefully schooled approach to business learned from sleazy mentors like his father, his long-time lawyer Roy Cohn, and the mobsters he palled around with in the 1970s and 1980s. That they often served him well in his real estate ventures, however, may reflect more about the intimidation value of well-paid lawyers and a loophole-filled legal system than business acumen.

We now have considerable evidence of that. His well-publicized bankruptcies made him a bad loan risk in the opinion of every major American bank. His niece and sister, and former fixer Michael Cohen all describe him as a con man. And the New York Times’ revealed that Trump has $400 million in personal debts, and his flagship hotels and golf courses are all financial disasters.

If we consider the final twenty days of this election in light of everything we know about Trump, his actions make no sense. Real Clear Politics and 538.com report that the most highly regarded polls currently have Biden leading Trump by ten points among likely voters, and ahead in almost every battleground state. No incumbent with numbers as bad as Trump’s has ever won re-election.

Trump still has a loyal, some would say rabid base, but that base is no more than a third of the electorate, not nearly enough to re-elect him. His margin of victory in 2016 came from independents who were angry at establishment politicians and disaffected Democrats who disliked Clinton. The 2018 mid-terms showed that Trump was losing his grip on those groups, and his mishandling of the pandemic caused independents to leave him in droves. In Biden, he faces an opponent who has a consistently high approval rating with voters, well in excess of 50%, while Clinton’s never approached 50%.

Assuming his attempts to undermine the electoral process don’t succeed, Trump’s best chance of winning re-election requires getting voters’ minds off the COVID crisis and expanding his base. Yet, he seems hell-bent on doing neither. He announced that he will hold rallies like the ones this week in Sanford, FL and Johnstown, PA every day until the election. And rather than engage Biden in another debate, he will hold his own competing Town Hall tomorrow evening while Biden goes ahead with the one already scheduled.

Every public health expert has warned that raucous rallies with almost no one wearing masks and people jammed together for hours with no distancing are all likely to be COVID super-spreaders. Only Trump’s most devoted supporters attend them, they are smaller than in 2016, and they don’t receive the endless television coverage this year. The rallies, which are the heart of his stretch run strategy keep the virus front and center and are generally ignored by the very people he needs to win over.

What’s he up to? Is he expecting an October surprise? U. S. Attorney John Durham, who was tasked by Attorney General Bill Barr with re-investigating the Russia investigation and Hunter Biden was supposed to be preparing a blockbuster report. But Durham announced that there would be no report before the election and has turned his attention to the Clinton Foundation. Does Trump think he’s still running against Hillary or has his well-known reputation for spite overcome him?

The only explanation I can come up with is that Trump is deliberately trying to create COVID hotspots throughout the battleground states so he can declare a state of emergency and cancel the election. Far-fetched, I know, but if you have a better explanation, I’d love to hear it.

Posted in Articles | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Trump’s Callous Disregard for Americans

Alan Zendell, October 13, 2020

Now it’s personal. I’ve seen it happen in other places, watched it evolve on TV and every media outlet, because one of Donald Trump’ least endearing qualities (out of so many to choose from) is his need to constantly dominate both the airwaves and the broadband signals.

Trump’s willingness to sacrifice the health of the Americans he swore to defend for his own benefit is beyond dispute. For anyone who had the slightest doubt until now, his resumption of densely packed rallies with no distancing or masks surely silenced them. And Trump supporters at his rally in Sanford, Florida last evening seemed to gleefully accept it, proudly proclaiming to the television cameras that they don’t care about the pandemic, saying brilliant things like, “If I die, I die.”

That’s fine if they’re, say, cliff diving at Acapulco, not putting anyone else at risk except the unfortunate fish they might land on when they hit the surf. But in Sanford, these imbeciles were, and still are putting my family and friends at risk, and I am PISSED. Thanks to Governor Ron DeSantis, who has mismanaged the pandemic using the Trump playbook, the infection rate in Florida remains north of ten percent. For every thousand people who attended that rally, around a hundred were likely carrying COVID, and some fraction of those were spreading it to the people with whom they were packed shoulder-to-shoulder.

Those same people then stopped in motels, shopped in local stores, and dined in local restaurants which remain open at near capacity. Professor Michael Osterholm, Director of Infectious Disease Reasearch at the University of Minnesota, this week predicted that Florida would be the worst hot spot in the country during the second wave of the pandemic, for just those reasons. Central Florida, where life revolves around theme parks, beaches, football, and nightlife is a place where an alarming percentage of the population value their “personal freedom” over everything else. In Florida-speak that means they have no respect for rules or authority.

Trump’s rally was the very definition of a super-spreader event. That’s extremely personal to me, because it occurred five miles from where my son, my daughter-in-law who is days away from having a baby, and my two grandsons live. They shop in the same stores and take out food from the same restaurants in which those rally goers are still shedding virus today. The kids go to school with other kids whose families are equally at risk from Trump’s total disregard of their health and well-being. If that’s not bad enough, Florida being what it is, the next stop for many of those lemmings who are happy to follow Trump off the nearest cliff was to jump into their pickups or mount their hogs and head for the nearest beach town with their guns and confederate flags.

Unfortunately, that means they headed to the county where my wife and I spend a third of every year so we can watch the kids grow up. It’s also where many thousands of seniors reside full time or vacation, many of whom are our friends and sometime colleagues. Some of our friends, who are in their seventies and eighties, are severely health compromised. For them, the only way to remain safe is to live in a bubble for the next few weeks, until the wave of sickness and death that will surely emanate out of Sanford passes.

A reasonable person might ask what is driving this madness. The answer is Donald Trump’s ego and need for adulation. Three weeks out from an election which he will almost certainly lose, Trump’s only hope of victory is to broaden his support. Yet, he is embarking on a series of typical Trump rallies which are attended by only his most committed supporters, the ones he was referring to when he said he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose a single vote. Most political observers believe these rallies will do nothing to improve his chance of being re-elected. Their only purpose is to provide our president with a daily sugar high.

During the AIDS epidemic of the eighties and nineties, people who knowingly, deliberately exposed others to the HIV virus were prosecuted and convicted. The courts found that such negligent disregard for the health of others was a crime. If that was true, what can we say about our president? What percent of the quarter million deaths that we will have amassed by Election Day does he own? The modelers and epidemiologists who know best say 80-90%.

Do I sound angry? As I said, it’s personal now.

Posted in Articles | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Of Sound Mind and Body

Alan Zendell, October 9, 2020

Once again, we find ourselves mired in chaos created by Donald Trump. This time it’s about his physical and mental health a week after being hospitalized with COVID. There was a time when contradicting his doctors and public health experts and making demonstrably untrue assertions about the pandemic left much of the country wondering about fake news. Which reality was true, the overwhelming consensus of scientists and physicians, or the erratic, self-contradictory vision painted by Trump’s tweets and rants?

Twenty-five days before the election, Trump’s version has far fewer followers than it might have a couple of years ago, partly because it changes with his whims, sometimes multiple times a day. The reality of science and medicine has been consistent and almost unanimous for months, despite Trump’s attempt to re-write history.

He often defends his refusal to wear masks by claiming Anthony Fauci said masks were unnecessary back in March. But Fauci never said that. At a time when the nation’s stockpile of necessary medical supplies was severely depleted, Fauci suggested it was more important at that moment to assure that medical personnel had sufficient supplies of masks than for every American to have one.

We’ve seen what happens when decisions affecting millions of lives ignore science in favor of  one man’s self-interest. In the past few weeks, the president has recklessly put people directly at risk of catching the virus while attempting to convince his supporters that common sense recommendations by the CDC were just the radical left and the deep state trying to restrict their personal freedoms. And now, with COVID infections peaking all over the country, he wants to resume rallies, while unwilling to reveal the details of his health status.

There is no longer any doubt about who is promulgating fake news. The doubt and confusion which the president creates no longer obscure the truth. Instead of condemning white supremacists and hate groups, he admonished them to “stand by,” and a week later the FBI crushed a right-wing militia plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Witmer. Amid concerns that such militia groups have been emboldened by Trump’s refusal to discredit them, and fears that they may be planning massive acts of insurrection and civil war, FBI Director Christopher Wray said domestic terrorism is the most dangerous threat facing the country.  Trump said the plot to kidnap Witmer was her fault for not opening her state fast enough.

Trump’s assertion that he has beaten COVID and Americans should not let it dominate their lives are driven by his desperation about re-election.  The same desperation caused him to attack Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, because he hasn’t produced new evidence about Hillary Clinton’s emails, and Attorney General Bill Barr, because the investigation led by Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham into the “Russia hoax” will not be completed before Election Day. No October surprise?

This week, there is more evidence of Trump’s erratic behavior. He changed his mind three times in less than a week about whether he will debate Joe Biden on October 15th. He flipped back and forth over a new stimulus bill for a month, accusing the Democrats of holding up a bill while ordering Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin not to budge on the Republican Senate bill that would provide funding to bail out airlines and protect employers against liability if employees brought back to work in violation of CDC guidelines became sick or died.

Three days ago, after arguing that Nancy Pelosi wanted over a trillion dollars to reward Democrat-run states for decades of overspending he ordered Mnuchin to end negotiations with her. Yet today he undercut his own Senate caucus, telling Rush Limbaugh’s audience that he wants a huge stimulus, much larger than Pelosi’s. There’s a clear pattern in all this. We’ve seen his obsession with remaining in power play out repeatedly. But now he appears panicked, leading much of the medical community to wonder if the drugs he’s been given are affecting his stability and judgment.

We wouldn’t accept a last will and testament whose author was not demonstrably of sound mind and body, and we cannot accept the president’s version of his own legacy. In a very real sense, he is bequeathing the current state of the nation to the next administration. The body of evidence that includes both his record and his physical and mental health is all on the ballot this year. Far more important than politics, it creates a stark contrast between the current president and Joe Biden, his opponent.

If Americans can put aside their differences and focus on what’s best for the country, the choice couldn’t be clearer.

Posted in Articles | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Reading Trump’s Tells

Alan Zendell, October 8, 2020

Donald Trump’s most notable talent is a native ability to create chaos, sow discord, and enrage his adversaries in the hope that it will either intimidate them or negatively impact their judgment. He touts unpredictability and his ability to constantly keep everyone else guessing. Since people like Trump are thankfully rare, most of us were unprepared when he came on the political scene in 2015.

The way he decimated fifteen other Republican candidates in the 2016 primary race was testimony to both his power and its limitations. He reminds me of a major league baseball player from my youth. Ryne Duren pitched for the Orioles and Yankees in the 1950s and early 1960s. When he first came on the scene his trademarks were a previously unheard of 100 mph fastball and coke-bottle glasses. He would begin his warmup pitches by throwing the ball as hard as he could, missing the catcher by twenty feet.

The idea was to convince batters that his vision was so bad, his aim so erratic, it would be dangerous to get in the batter’s box. Yankees manager Casey Stengel said he’d be terrified to hit against him. Duren’s mystique worked – for a while. He convinced me, but I was only eleven. After a while, batters figured out Duren’s act. He was still formidable, but hitters stopped fearing him and they learned to hit 100 mph pitches routinely.

One trick ponies like Duren and Donald Trump always come back to Earth. Trump’s ability to make people’s heads spin has a finite lifetime. The shock and awe he practices whenever the cameras are on him loses its opacity after a while. Listen carefully to him, and his meaning and intent become clear.

One reason he succeeds is that Americans are loath to believe people are evil. Despite mountains of circumstantial and substantive evidence, it takes a lot to make us suspend our disbelief. Trump is a narcissistic sociopath; if you keep that in mind it’s easy to spot his tells. Consider his actions Wednesday afternoon. First, he released a video claiming he was fine. He’d beaten the COVID virus and was a “perfect specimen” of health. He was no longer contagious, and he was ready to resume campaign rallies.

Physicians watching him unanimously blasted the video, and his own doctors have been unwilling to offer specifics on his condition, despite voters’ right to know the health of the person they vote for. Doctors who knew what to look for easily spotted his difficulty breathing and accused him of lying. He is still a sick man whose symptoms are being masked by the drugs he’s taking. There is no evidence that he is no longer shedding the virus.

The tell for us non-doctors was the part about getting back to his raucous, maskless tight-packed rallies. The only thing that matters to Trump is looking tough to his base, no matter how many of them he infects and possibly kills. It matters so much, he was willing to steal the spotlight from his running mate, Mike Pence, who was about to debate Democratic candidate Kamala Harris.

The interview with Maria Bartiromo of Fox Business News, yesterday, had a similar tell. When the Federal Debate Commission announced that next week’s presidential debate would be virtual, Trump was furious. “I’m not going to waste my time on a virtual debate. That’s not what debating is all about. You sit behind a computer and do a debate. It’s ridiculous, and then they cut you off whenever they want.”  

If you listen carefully, he always telegraphs his genuine intent. His objection to a virtual debate is that it undercuts his ability to ignore the rules and dominate the proceedings with bluster and constant interruptions. He cannot accept the idea of following the same rules Biden agreed to or of agreeing to limit his personal freedom to speak whenever he wishes. Allow some loser CSPAN host to turn off his microphone?

I shudder when I think of the harm he can do between now and January, to our country and the world.

Does Trump seem more erratic and crazy than usual? Many physicians believe he is being affected by psychotropic side effects of the medicines he’s taking, which led Nancy Pelosi to suggest he is living in an “altered state.” That, combined with desperation over his failing poll numbers, may be why he is acting like a caged animal. He seems more reckless every day as the election draws near. He changes his mind  daily about a new stimulus bill as more and more people become sick with COVID and employers lay off workers and cancel their health insurance. And he still holds the nuclear missile codes.

Posted in Articles | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments