Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!!

Can 2020 get any crazier? Unfortunately, the answer is probably “yes.” Trump was released from Walter Reed hospital last night and helicoptered back to the White House, where he staged a ludicrous Mussolini-like balcony scene. The first thing he did was take off his mask, even though he is still infected and a danger to anyone who gets near him.

Here’s how historian Michael Beschloss responded on Twitter:

Tim Miller at The Bulwark: The Weirdest 90 Seconds in Presidential History.

Donald Trump’s photo op on the Truman Balcony following his return to the White House with COVID-19 is one of the most disturbing, absorbing, foreign images I can recall. It does not appear to be of our time or place, and yet it is. With respect to the great painter George W. Bush’s view of the Trump inauguration, I think this has to be the weirdest shit I have ever seen in my life. If you haven’t seen it, just watch it now:

First, Trump takes off his mask, very strongly, very heavily. This is a man who is still on several experimental medications for a deadly virus that is highly contagious and spreads through the air. I guess he thought he would look “weak” with the mask? I would think that he would want to demonstrate that he has in fact “learned a lot” since contracting the COVID. But apparently when all of the infected geniuses from the West Wing put their heads together (over Zoom) to hash out what the optics of the president’s return should be, “lessons learned” came in a distant second to “übermensch.”

So we get a madman, his face pancaked under a 2mm coat of orange powder, jacked up on steroids, straining to breathe—and not caring a whit about those around him.

And I’ve got to hand it to him: Trump nails that image.

As the mask comes off the first thing you notice is the president’s complexion. After two consecutive video appearances that revealed his Immortan Joe old man pallor, the orangina is back. Trump has an extremely prominent make-up line that goes from his right temple down to his neckline, separating the orange from his peaked, natural tone….

After Trump successfully disposes of the mask, he takes two deep breaths to center himself before the still shots. Very deep breaths.

Unfortunately for Trumpilini, “gasping for air” soon began trending on Twitter. It’s pretty obvious he is still very sick and probably has pneumonia. The only thing that is propping him up is the heavy-duty steroid they gave him.

Then he points at someone off camera, giving them the get out of here sign. (Ask Chris Christie. He knows all about it.) Then he takes two more deep breaths—with another wince as if he had broken ribs. After that he spends quite a while trying to button his jacket.

The drama builds to one mammoth, labored breath. The type of breath you would take if you were a child who was about to enter into a competition in a swimming pool over who could last the longest underwater without drowning.

That heave gave him the stamina to move into a dramatic extended salute lasting 23 interminable seconds. He salutes with D-list caudillo energy, channeling an aging Pinochet or Trujillo in their last gasps of power. Throughout the salute he holds an aggressive glare. Then he steps back and looks deep into the distance. Fully embracing his posture as the leader of a death cult, Trump turns and enters the White House. Without a mask.

The coup de grâce (for whom, we won’t know for a couple weeks), is Trump moving into an extremely congested, spittle-filled soliloquy—straight to camera—about how our Dear Leader may well now be “immune” from the deadly virus that has killed 210,000 and which is currently inhabiting his lungs, and his White House.

Trump tells Americans to embrace the virus, because he thinks he’s beaten it. Never mind that 210,000 of us have died from it and none of us has access to the free health care he gets.

This morning, Trump was back to comparing Covid-19 to the flu.

Really? No, we don’t lose more than 100,000 lives from the flu and it isn’t more lethal than the coronavirus. WTF?!

Mainstream reactions to Trump’s insanity are getting more common. Here’s Michael Beschloss again on Rachel Maddow’s show:

David Gergen on CNN:


Stories to check out today:

The Daily Beast: Trump Actually Believes He Can Sell Himself to America as a COVID-Conquering Hero.

The president’s stint in the Military Medical Center may have raised serious questions about his political future and his physical status, with doctors giving him a trio of therapeutics and his physician acknowledging that he is not yet out of the woods. But during his time away from the White House, Trump spent his weekend frantically working the phones, compulsively watching TV, and flagrantly disregarding the advice of his own public health officials….

He also was scheming. And at the top of his mind, according to three people with knowledge of his private comments, was how to reverse the damage that his campaign may be enduring by him being off the trail. Trump assured confidants that he would be back soon, though he wasn’t sure if he could commit to doing so in the coming week. And he previewed what is set to become the latest of many 2020 messaging reboots in the past few months.

100220ovalofficerThe president repeatedly claimed that once he recovers from the coronavirus—for which first lady Melania Trump, his campaign manager, debate sparing partner, press secretary, and other aides also tested positive—he’ll be able to present himself as a conqueror of it, both personally and politically.

The notion might seem far-fetched, considering the poor marks Trump’s received for his handling of the pandemic. But according to the knowledgeable sources, the president insisted that this would be a campaign asset, as he’d be able to say “I know what people are going through,” one of the sources recounted him saying. Allies argued that this could help frame Trump as both resilient and empathetic, which could come in handy in a race where polling shows a wide empathy gap between him and former Vice President Joe Biden.

Of course he has no idea what normal people are going through, and if he did, he wouldn’t be capable of empathizing with them.

By Monday morning, Trump’s campaign had begun test driving this newest 2020 sales pitch, brushing aside the reality that the president’s stubborn flouting of public-health and safety measures had directly contributed to his own infection, not to mention the deaths of 208,000 Americans. Indeed when he arrived back at the White House on Monday night, Trump walked onto the balcony for a photo op, during which he defiantly tore off the mask he was wearing, the heaviness of his breaths making clear that the disease was very much still in his system….

mra100220daprIt was a surreal scene that fit neatly into the surreal moment: a president with unclear health status, risking the safety of his own aides and security detail for the purposes of putting on a good face for the election less than 30 days away. And, for the most part, everyone in Trumpland seems happy to play along. In addition to the attempt to turn the president’s serious COVID infection into an electoral asset, Trump’s campaign has also tried to turn it into a cash cow.

“As the leader of the free world, President Trump had no choice,” declared a fundraising email sent on Monday morning by a joint fundraising committee for the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee. “He didn’t want to stay in the White House and lock himself in, away from the American People.”

AP: White House staff, Secret Service eye virus with fear, anger.

The West Wing is a ghost town. Staff members are scared of exposure. And the White House is now a treatment ward for not one — but two — COVID patients, including a president who has long taken the threat of the virus lightly.

President Donald Trump’s decision to return home from a military hospital despite his continued illness is putting new focus on the people around him who could be further exposed if he doesn’t abide by strict isolation protocols.

EjmucqDWkAMcaPuThroughout the pandemic, White House custodians, ushers, kitchen staff and members of the U.S. Secret Service have continued to show up for work in what is now a coronavirus hot spot, with more than a dozen known cases this week alone.

Trump, still contagious, has made clear that he has little intention of abiding by best containment practices.

As he arrived back at the White House on Monday evening, the president defiantly removed his face mask and stopped to pose on a balcony within feet of a White House photographer. He was seen inside moments later, surrounded by numerous people as he taped a video message urging Americans not to fear a virus that has killed more than 210,000 in the U.S. and 1 million worldwide.

Read more at the link.

Poynter: Reporters are ‘livid’ after White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany tests positive for COVID-19.

McEnany met with reporters indoors last week and then spoke with reporters on Sunday. Sunday’s quick briefing was outside, but she removed her mask to speak. And several journalists who cover the White House have tested positive.

In response, the White House Correspondents’ Association put out a statement that said, “We wish Kayleigh, the president and everyone else struggling with the virus a swift recovery. As of this moment we are not aware of additional cases among White House journalists, though we know some are awaiting test results. We strongly encourage our members to continue following CDC guidance on mask-wearing and distancing — especially when at the White House — and urge journalists to seek testing if they were potentially exposed.”

EjpfQe_UYAYvONyIn a tweet, New York Magazine’s Olivia Nuzzi called it a “weak ass” statement, adding, “Kayleigh McEnany directly endangered the lives of those around her, including members of the press. I expect a stronger defense of journalists from the WHCA when their safety is at risk.”

CNN’s Brian Stelter, on air, said, “I’m also hearing from White House reporters who are quite angry, who think the association should have spoken out more forcefully … and call this what it is: It’s outrageous. Look, I don’t want to kick somebody while they are down and sick, but McEnany’s behavior, her conduct was outrageous. It’s more evidence of a coverup, more evidence of denialism at the White House up until the point you start coughing and you can’t deny it anymore.”

Lots of angry people around Trump these days. More reporters’ reactions:

In a stunning interview on CNN on Monday morning, New York Times White House reporter Michael D. Shear, who has tested positive for COVID-19, said he had not been contacted by anyone in the White House.

“Nobody in the White House has said ‘boo’ and asked anything about where I was or who I talked to or who else I might have infected,” Shear said. “I think that that just shows you they’re not taking it seriously, at least as it pertains to themselves.”

Shear was on Air Force One last Saturday and spoke with Trump that night. He also was at the White House earlier that day and said that was the last time he was “out and about.”

“So it’s pretty clear,” Shear said, “that somewhere along the course of that day is when I got infected.”

One White House correspondent told Vanity Fair’s Joe Pompeo, “People are livid. There are a lot of us, like dozens of reporters, who feel it’s unsafe to be doing it the way it’s being done. Literally half the White House has the virus they have downplayed for seven months. I mean, it’s just unnecessarily risking serious illness or death, for no reason.”

The New York Times: White House Is Not Tracing Contacts for ‘Super-Spreader’ Rose Garden Event.

The White House has decided not to trace the contacts of guests and staff members at the Rose Garden celebration 10 days ago for Judge Amy Coney Barrett, where at least eight people, including the president, may have become infected, according to a White House official familiar with the plans.

Instead, it has limited its efforts to notifying people who came in close contact with Mr. Trump in the two days before his Covid diagnosis Thursday evening. It has also cut the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has the government’s most extensive knowledge and resources for contact tracing, out of the process.

bg100520daprContact tracing is an essential piece of any outbreak investigation and is a key to stopping the virus from spreading further, especially after a potential “super spreader” event where many people may have been infected.

Any of the closely packed guests and staff members at the Rose Garden ceremony could have gone on to transmit the virus to many others, so the White House’s decision not to investigate the cluster of infections, and pinpoint the source, has potentially devastating consequences for hundreds of people, several experts warned.

“This is a total abdication of responsibility by the Trump administration,” said Dr. Joshua Barocas, a public health expert at Boston University, who has advised the City of Boston on contact tracing. “The idea that we’re not involving the C.D.C. to do contact tracing at this point seems like a massive public health threat.”

Too bad. The Trumpists don’t give a shit how many Americans they kill. Anyway, you have to figure they don’t want to find out that Trump himself is probably source of the outbreak.

Hang in there Sky Dancers, only 29 days until the election. Take care of yourselves today, and check in here if you have the time and inclination.