Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

08bruni-jumboI’m not going to spend much time on the vice presidential debate in today’s post. CNN’s post-debate poll showed Kamala Harris was the winner.

I don’t think Mike Pence did a very good job of defending Trump, and that’s what he needed to do. He lied again and again with a straight face–that has always been his modus operandi. He refused to answer a question about what states should do about abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned, and–worst of all–he dodged a question about whether there will be a peaceful transition of power if Trump loses. From The Daily Beast:

At the tail end of Wednesday night’s vice-presidential debate—one that was noticeably less fiery and chaotic than last week’s presidential clash—Vice President Mike Pence completely avoided answering what he would do if President Donald Trump refuses to step down if he loses the election….

The veep first said that he thinks his ticket will win re-election before accusing Democrats of not accepting the outcome of the 2016 election, bringing up the Russia investigation and the impeachment of the president. After invoking former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s advice that Joe Biden shouldn’t concede on election night if the results are close, Pence reiterated his belief that Trump would be re-elected.

“President Trump and I are fighting every day to prevent Joe Biden and Kamala Harris from changing the rules and creating a massive opportunity for voter fraud,” he concluded. “If we have a free and fair election, we’ll have confidence in it.”

Matt Flegenheimer and Annie Karni at The New York Times: Pence, Peerless Trump Defender, Confronts His Limits.

Vice President Mike Pence approached his task on Wednesday as he has approached his four years as the executive straight man to an unruly leader: not merely defending President Trump but effectively insisting, with poker-faced conviction, that those who doubt his boss should not believe their eyes and ears.

R6ZUW44OCRGKHMJQMHJKXZTXDIThe trouble this time was not Mr. Pence’s skill set on this front, which remains peerless. It was the fact set underpinning this debate, which remains inconvenient to an administration so overwhelmed by the virus that its own West Wing has become a hot spot.

And so Mr. Pence — stripped of most politically palatable explanations for the White House pandemic response — set off on a curious charge when Senator Kamala Harris said that the Trump team’s leadership “clearly” has not worked: He chose to hear it as a direct affront to the American people.

“When you say what the American people have done over these last eight months hasn’t worked,” Mr. Pence said gravely, as controlled as his president is rambunctious onstage, “that’s a great disservice to the sacrifices the American people have made.”

At last, the strain seemed to be showing, at least a little. Perhaps that is what a full term of wear-and-tear can do to even the most accomplished rhetorical gymnast.

Or perhaps the reality is simply too bleak for any administration to explain away entirely: The president has contracted the virus that has killed more than 210,000 Americans on his watch. His behavior, since leaving the hospital on Monday, appears to be a continuation of the kind of scientifically dubious happy talk that has left the Trump-Pence ticket at a significant polling disadvantage four weeks before Election Day.

Yes, the story today and every day until the election will be about Trump’s mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to the deaths of 211,917 Americans as of this morning. In addition, Trump either doesn’t understand or simply refuses to admit that the pandemic is killing the economy.

244003_rgb_768IMHO, the biggest story this morning is the coronavirus outbreak at the White House and the obvious fact that Trump and his Trumpists have likely spread the virus very widely. Here’s the latest.

ABC News: 34 people connected to White House, more than previously known, infected by coronavirus: Internal FEMA memo.

The coronavirus outbreak has infected “34 White House staffers and other contacts” in recent days, according to an internal government memo, an indication that the disease has spread among more people than previously known in the seat of American government.

The memo also notes that a senior adviser to the president is among those infected. Hope Hicks and Stephen Miller, both senior aides to the president, have tested positive in recent days.

The new figures underscore both the growing crisis in the White House and the lengths to which government officials have gone to block information about the outbreak’s spread. ABC News had previously reported that a total of 24 White House aides and their contacts had contracted the virus. It was not clear in the FEMA memo with the larger number what “other contacts” referred to.

Jennifer Jacobs at Bloomberg: White House Security Official Contracted Covid-19 in September.

A top White House security official, Crede Bailey, is gravely ill with Covid-19 and has been hospitalized since September, according to four people familiar with his condition.

I'm in control hereThe White House has not publicly disclosed Bailey’s illness. He became sick before the Sept. 26 Rose Garden event President Donald Trump held to announce his Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett that has been connected to more than a dozen cases of the disease.

A White House spokesman declined to comment on Bailey. He is in charge of the White House security office, which handles credentialing for access to the White House and works closely with the U.S. Secret Service on security measures throughout the compound.

Chris Christie is still in the hospital and there has been no news about how he is doing. NJ.com:

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie remains hospitalized at Morristown Medical Center, where he was admitted Saturday after testing positive COVID-19

Christie’s current condition is not known. Hospital officials declined comment Tuesday….

Christie, who has struggled with his weight and has a lifelong history of asthma, tweeted that he checked himself into the hospital Saturday. Because of his conditions, he’s at higher risk of developing complications from the virus.

The Daily Beast: White House Quietly Told Vets Group It Might Have Exposed Them to COVID.

On the same day President Donald Trump acknowledged contracting the coronavirus, the White House quietly informed a veterans group that there was a COVID-19 risk stemming from a Sept. 27 event honoring the families of fallen U.S. service members, the head of that charitable organization told The Daily Beast.

5_wexler_0The White House warning, which came on Oct. 2, is the earliest known outreach to visitors of the complex that there was a risk of coronavirus emerging from the grounds where the president, the first lady, and at least 17 of his aides, according to Politico, have now tested positive for the virus.

The Sept. 27 event to honor Gold Star families came the day after the White House hosted a celebration for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett that appears to have been an early source of the White House outbreak, though West Wing officials have quietly disputed that linkage. It is unclear to the head of the veterans charity—the Greatest Generations Foundation—which participant’s potential positive coronavirus test sparked the warning.

USA Today: White House coronavirus outbreak may have exposed thousands from Atlanta to Minnesota.

President Donald Trump and other White House insiders infected with COVID-19 carried the virus across the country in a matter of days, potentially exposing hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people as they went about their business, a USA TODAY investigation found. 

From a religious summit outside Atlanta to a campaign rally at a Pennsylvania airport and a private fundraiser in Minnesota, Trump, his aides and political allies attended events with thousands of people, often without masks and little regard for social distancing….

USA TODAY reporters examined hundreds of photos and videos from news coverage and social media posts and scoured attendance logs to identify people who came in contact with those individuals.

don't be afraid of covidAt least 6,000 people attended meetings, rallies and other gatherings with them within a week of the Supreme Court nomination ceremony Sept. 26 in the White House Rose Garden, pegged as a potential “superspreader” event….

Epidemiologists and public health experts said USA TODAY’s analysis shows that the White House outbreak has put more people, in more places, at risk than has been previously known. It illustrates just how quickly and how far a superspreader event can carry COVID-19. 

“I don’t think we know the extent of this outbreak yet … people could die,” said Danielle Ompad, an associate professor of epidemiology at New York University’s School of Global Public Health. “It’s the height of irresponsibility for people who are supposed to be leaders.”

Meanwhile, Trump hasn’t been seen in public since he returned to the White House on Monday evening. Instead he has been posting videos of himself wearing heavier make-up than usual and babbling nonsense, including claiming he has been “cured” of the virus and may be immune to it. We haven’t been told what medications Trump is still taking, and the White House and Trump’s doctors have refused to say when Trump last tested negative for the virus. ABC News reports:

The White House has also declined to confirm when and how Trump was tested before last Tuesday’s presidential debate with Joe Biden, even though both campaigns certified to debate organizers that the candidates and everyone who traveled with them to Cleveland tested negative within 72 hours of the debate.

The White House, which has made contradictory statements about when and how often Trump is tested, said the president first tested positive Thursday evening, and first discussed symptoms with his doctor at that time. Studies have shown that coronavirus patients are infectious up to two days before the onset of symptoms.

primitive tribes“People ought to have the right to know whether or not they should be quarantining themselves, if they’re at risk,” Dr. Jeremy Faust, an emergency physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an instructor at Harvard Medical School, told ABC News. “Potentially the president and his team have put others in harm’s way.”

While it’s not clear when Trump was infected with the virus, the White House’s silence raises questions about its compliance with debate rules, the frequency of Trump’s tests, and whether the president or his aides had concerns about him having the virus before he tested positive — as he kept up his busy schedule of campaign events.

And what about the next presidential debate? The debate commission announce that it will be done virtually, and Trump says he won’t participate and instead will hold a superspreader rally! The New York Times: Trump Objects to Commission’s Virtual Debate Plan.

President Trump, in an extraordinary break from the norms of modern campaigning, said on Thursday that he would refuse to participate in the next presidential debate after organizers changed the event to a virtual format because of health concerns about the coronavirus.

His withdrawal from the Oct. 15 event came shortly after the Commission on Presidential Debates, citing the “health and safety of all involved,” abandoned plans to stage the next in-person debate in Miami, saying that Mr. Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr. would instead participate remotely from separate locations.

But Mr. Trump, whose recent contraction of the coronavirus was a significant impetus for the commission to modify its plans, immediately dismissed the idea of a remote debate as “ridiculous” and accused the debate commission without evidence of seeking to protect his Democratic opponent.

“No, I’m not going to waste my time on a virtual debate,” Mr. Trump told the Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo in a television interview. “That’s not what debating is all about. You sit behind a computer and do a debate — it’s ridiculous.”

And this is extraordinary: the editors of The New England Journal of Medicine have publicly stated that Trump should not get a second term: Dying in a Leadership Vacuum.

Here’s the gist:

Covid-19 has created a crisis throughout the world. This crisis has produced a test of leadership. With no good options to combat a novel pathogen, countries were forced to make hard choices about how to respond. Here in the United States, our leaders have failed that test. They have taken a crisis and turned it into a tragedy….

The United States came into this crisis with enormous advantages. Along with tremendous manufacturing capacity, we have a biomedical research system that is the envy of the world. We have enormous expertise in public health, health policy, and basic biology and have consistently been able to turn that expertise into new therapies and preventive measures. And much of that national expertise resides in government institutions. Yet our leaders have largely chosen to ignore and even denigrate experts.

The response of our nation’s leaders has been consistently inadequate. The federal government has largely abandoned disease control to the states. Governors have varied in their responses, not so much by party as by competence. But whatever their competence, governors do not have the tools that Washington controls. Instead of using those tools, the federal government has undermined them. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which was the world’s leading disease response organization, has been eviscerated and has suffered dramatic testing and policy failures. The National Institutes of Health have played a key role in vaccine development but have been excluded from much crucial government decision making. And the Food and Drug Administration has been shamefully politicized,3 appearing to respond to pressure from the administration rather than scientific evidence. Our current leaders have undercut trust in science and in government,4 causing damage that will certainly outlast them. Instead of relying on expertise, the administration has turned to uninformed “opinion leaders” and charlatans who obscure the truth and facilitate the promulgation of outright lies….

Anyone else who recklessly squandered lives and money in this way would be suffering legal consequences. Our leaders have largely claimed immunity for their actions. But this election gives us the power to render judgment. Reasonable people will certainly disagree about the many political positions taken by candidates. But truth is neither liberal nor conservative. When it comes to the response to the largest public health crisis of our time, our current political leaders have demonstrated that they are dangerously incompetent. We should not abet them and enable the deaths of thousands more Americans by allowing them to keep their jobs.

I think this post is getting too long; but I can’t be sure, because the new WordPress editor doesn’t provide a word count. I’ll post a few more stories in the comment thread below. I hope you all have a peaceful day. Take care of yourselves and your loved ones, and please check in with us if you have the time and inclination.


Live Blog: VEEP Debatestakes 2020

 

Where would be without a live debate thread especially when it’s Kamala vs the guy who calls his wife mother?

Image

So,  we will be following the debate antics.  Here’s the details:

 

9-10:30 PM EDT on ABC · CBS · FOX · NBC · PBS

Stream: C-SPAN · CBSN · ABC · NBC · PBS

Apps: ABC News · CBS News · CNN · Fox News · NBC News

Moderator: Susan Page

Location: University of Utah, Salt Lake City

Format: Nine segments of approximately 10 minutes each

And here’s the downlow:  “How to watch the vice presidential debate” by Caroline Linton of CBS.

Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic nominee Kamala Harris will meet for their first and only debate on Wednesday, October 7, at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Susan Page of USA Today will moderate, and Pence and Harris will be separated by a plexiglass barrier.

Campaign manager Bill Stepien and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, both of whom helped with Mr. Trump’s debate preparation, have tested positive for COVID-19, as well as Hope Hicks, counselor to President Trump. Christie also checked into the hospital for treatment. Chris Wallace, the moderator of the first debate, said Mr. Trump arrived too late to the debate site to be tested for COVID-19 there.

Pence has been tested multiple times since then, and he said the latest test, on Wednesday, was negative.

Harris announced on Friday that she and her husband, Doug Emhoff, had both tested negative for COVID-19. To limit travel, she arrived in Salt Lake City on Friday night. 

The candidates will be seated 12 feet away from each other. 

 

So, let’s see if she can make him cry!

 


Thursday Reads

Girl with Sunflowers, 1941 (oil on masonite), Diego Rivera (1886-1957)

Good Morning!!

As usual, there is way too much news this morning. How have we survived nearly four years of this? The U.S. is leading the world in cases and deaths during a historic global pandemic that has killed more than 170,000 Americans. The U.S. economy is a raging dumpster fire that has been a disaster for all but the wealthiest Americans.

The so-called “president” couldn’t care less about the death and destruction that his neglect of his duties has caused. He’s far too busy trying to steal the 2020 election and achieve his goal of becoming a dictator.

More evidence of Trump’s collusion with Russia and his idol Vladimir Putin has emerged in recent days, and it really looks as if he has been getting lessons from Putin in how do to the U.S. what Putin did to Russia. Meanwhile Putin appears to have poisoned his primary political opponent. Is he telling Trump how to do that too?

Today is the fourth day of the virtual Democratic National Convention. Last night was pretty dramatic. Kamala Harris accepted the nomination for Vice President. She is first woman of color and the first Asian-American to do so. Before Harris spoke, former President Obama gave a merciless critique of Trump’s failed leadership and issued a dire warning about the future of our democracy. Tonight Joe Biden will accept the nomination for President.

On the breaking news from Russia

The Daily Beast: Putin Critic Alexey Navalny Allegedly Poisoned by Toxin in His Tea.

Edvard Munch, The Sun

MOSCOW—Vladimir Putin’s nemesis, corruption fighter Aleksey Navalny, is fighting for his life in a Siberian hospital after allegedly being poisoned at an airport while travelling to Moscow.

Navalny’s closest aide, Kira Yarmysh, said Navalny was poisoned after drinking a cup of tea at Tomsk airport early Thursday morning. He then boarded a flight to the Russian capital but fell violently ill en route. Taken from the aircraft on a stretcher after it was diverted to the city of Omsk, the opposition leader is in intensive care, relying on a respirator to breathe.

A Russian DJ who was on the same flight recorded a video that showed medical help arriving after the plane landed in Omsk. Navalny’s screams could be heard in the background.

Yarmysh said she knew immediately what had happened to her colleague: “A year ago, when Aleksey was in a detention center, he was poisoned. Obviously, now they’ve done the same thing to him again,” she wrote on Twitter.

Navalny’s friend, former lawmaker Dmitry Gudkov is convinced this was yet another assassination attempt on an opponent of Putin. “Ever since Boris Nemtsov was murdered by the wall of the Kremlin, all of us knew who was going to be their next target—but Aleksey and I avoided talking about that,” Gudkov told The Daily Beast.

Read more at BBC News: Alexei Navalny: Russian opposition leader ‘poisoned’

On the Democratic National Convention

DECLARING “LET’S fight with conviction, let’s fight with hope, let’s fight with confidence,” Kamala D. Harris made history on Wednesday night in accepting the Democratic Party’s nomination for vice president. The California senator’s address was the nation’s first broad introduction to the first Black woman ever on a major party presidential ticket.

Impression, Sunrise, Claude Monet, 1872

The daughter of immigrants, she described her family’s only-in-America story. She also highlighted racial inequities that continue to plague American society, including the disproportionate suffering communities of color have endured during the covid-19 pandemic. But Ms. Harris, who has won several elections in the nation’s most populous state and boasts an impressive record as a prosecutor, state attorney general and U.S. senator, did not serve merely as an avatar of one demographic group or another. The vision she offered was of universal values — and the need to restore them after the presidency of Donald Trump. She lamented that “the constant chaos leaves us adrift. The incompetence makes us feel afraid. The callousness makes us feel alone.” She offered an alternative in which “we may not agree on every detail, but we are united by the fundamental belief that every human being is of infinite worth, deserving of compassion, dignity and respect.”

In other elections, such sentiments might feel trite. In this one, they draw a clear distinction with the incumbent president. Former president Barack Obama drove that point home before Ms. Harris spoke. “Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t,” he said. “The consequences of that failure are severe: 170,000 Americans dead; millions of jobs, gone, while those at the top take in more than ever; our worst impulses unleashed; our proud reputation around the world badly diminished.”

Politico: ‘Our worst impulses unleashed’: Obama assails Trump as a threat to democracy.

Former President Barack Obama delivered his sharpest broadside yet against President Donald Trump, blasting his successor as unserious and self-centered and cautioning that core democratic institutions have been imperiled by the Trump presidency.

“I never expected that my successor would embrace my vision or continue my policies,” Obama said in his remarks at the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday. “I did hope, for the sake of our country, that Donald Trump might show some interest in taking the job seriously. But he never did.”

Alexander Calder, Sunrise on Pyramids, 1070

“Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t,” Obama continued. “And the consequences of that failure are severe: 170,000 Americans dead. Millions of jobs gone. Our worst impulses unleashed, our proud reputation around the world badly diminished, and our democratic institutions threatened like never before.”

Obama portrayed the president as a catastrophically ineffective leader who has used the office only to benefit himself and his friends and spoke with an urgency not often seen from a man who has largely declined to weigh in on the Trump outrage du jour. Trump, he said, views the presidency as no more than a “reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.”

He dismissed Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, asserting that “our ability to work together to solve big problems like a pandemic depends on a fidelity to facts and science and logic and not just making stuff up.”

Also see Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine: Obama’s Convention Speech Is the First Time I Have Seen Him Scared.

On the Senate Intelligence Committee’s latest report on Trump and Russia

Franklin Foer at The Atlantic: Russiagate Was Not a Hoax.

Rereading the Mueller report more than a year after its publication is an exercise in disappointment. One gets the feeling that Robert Mueller didn’t press his inquiry to its end. Instead of settling the questions that haunt the 2016 campaign, he left them dangling, publishing a stilted document riddled with insinuation and lacunae. He rushed his work, closing up shop before finishing his assignment.

While Mueller received all the hype, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence kept its head down. Yesterday, having avoided cable speculation almost entirely, the SSCI released the fifth and final volume of a report on Russia’s attempt to sway the last election in Donald Trump’s favor. It finally delivered what Mueller either could not or would not: a comprehensive presentation of the evidence in the matter of “collusion.” The report confirms that Russiagate is no hoax. Whether or not the Trump campaign illegally coordinated with the Kremlin, Trump has no grounds for proclaiming vindication, much less that he’s the victim of a witch hunt….

The Wheat Field, Sunrise, Vincent Van Gogh

Mueller’s team referred to Manafort’s Kyiv-based aide-de-camp, Konstantin Kilimnik, as an active Russian agent. Manafort had clearly spoken with Kilimnik during the campaign, and had even passed confidential campaign information to him, with the understanding that the documents would ultimately arrive in the hands of oligarchs close to the Kremlin….

The committee…reports that Manafort and Kilimnik talked almost daily during the campaign. They communicated through encrypted technologies set to automatically erase their correspondence; they spoke using code words and shared access to an email account. It’s worth pausing on these facts: The chairman of the Trump campaign was in daily contact with a Russian agent, constantly sharing confidential information with him. That alone makes for one of the worst scandals in American political history.

The significant revelation of the document is that Kilimnik was likely a participant in the Kremlin scheme to hack and leak Clinton campaign emails. Furthermore, Kilimnik kept in close contact with the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a former client of Manafort’s. The report also indicates that Deripaska was connected to his government’s hacking efforts. This fact is especially suggestive: Deripaska had accused Manafort of stealing money from him, and Manafort hoped to repair his relationship with the oligarch. Was Manafort passing information to him, through Kilimnik, for the sake of currying favor with an old patron?

Also see The New York Times Editorial Board: The Trump Campaign Accepted Russian Help to Win in 2016. Case Closed. Too bad the NYT can’t admit how wrong they were in 2016 and issue a long-needed apology to Hillary Clinton and the American people.

On Trump’s efforts to steal the 2020 election:

Joanne Lipman and Edward B. Foley at The Washington Post: If we don’t dispel the falsehood of an election ‘delay’ now, we risk chaos in November.

Leonid Afremov, The Sweetness of the Sun

President Trump is ramping up his attacks on mail-in voting by insisting election results “must” be known on election night. “No more big election night answers?” he tweeted last month. “Ridiculous! Just a formula for RIGGING an Election . . .”

The news media have pushed back on his baseless claims of fraud. But they agree with him on one point: There is likely to be a “delay” in election results because of a surge in mail-in votes.

But that’s wrong. If results aren’t known on election night, that doesn’t mean there’s a delay. The fact is, there are never official results on election night. There never have been.

Predictions of a delay rest on a misunderstanding of the vote-counting process — a misunderstanding that is both dangerous and hugely consequential. If election-night results are considered the norm, and what happens this year is described as a “delay,” it will be easy to paint the result as problematic — and for Trump to continue to spread suspicions about the entire process.

Concerns about a supposed delay stem from a coronavirus-fueled interest in absentee and mail-in ballots. In a July survey of more than 19,000 Americans, 41 percent of those who plan to vote said they were “very likely” to vote by mail this year, and another 23 percent said they would be “somewhat likely” to do so. That compares with 21 percent who voted by mail in 2016, “which itself was a historic high,” the survey, conducted by a consortium of universities, noted. Counting those ballots could potentially take days or weeks, which means projecting a winner on election night may not be possible.

Yet even if counting takes several weeks, that wouldn’t constitute a delay — because by law, election results aren’t official until more than a month after the election.

I will highlight more important stories in the comment thread.

Take care of yourselves today Sky Dancers! We will survive because we must. Take care of yourselves and those you love today and every day.


Tuesday Reads: Democratic National Convention and Other News

Good Morning!!

I’m sorry to say that I saw very little of the first night of the Democratic National Convention. I wasn’t interested in watching a lot of Republicans and Bernie Sanders. I wanted to see Michelle Obama’s speech, but I fell asleep before she came on.

Here’s The Washington Post’s report on the first night of the virtual event: On Democratic convention’s first night, speakers blame Trump for America’s woes.

Democrats kicked off their virtual nominating convention Monday with a focused denunciation of President Trump, showcasing dozens of testimonials that culminated in lancing criticism from former first lady Michelle Obama, who cast Trump as incapable of meeting America’s needs and said Joe Biden would usher in racial justice and ease the coronavirus pandemic.

In the centerpiece speech of the night, a searing indictment of her husband Barack Obama’s successor, Obama declared that Trump has mishandled the pandemic and failed to respond to outcries over the deaths of Black Americans. She warned that the nation would suffer more if he is elected to a second term.

“Let me be as honest and clear as I possibly can: Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country. He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head. He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us,” she said, before quoting a line Trump used about covid-19 deaths in a recent interview: “It is what it is.”

She spoke passionately about protests over police brutality this year — and Trump’s response of declaring those in the streets to be anarchists.

“Here at home as George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and a never-ending list of innocent people of color continue to be murdered, stating the simple fact that a Black life matters is still met with derision from the nation’s highest office,” Obama said, wearing a necklace that read “Vote.” [….]

Other testimonials against Trump’s stewardship ranged from democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to Ohio’s Republican former governor John Kasich, both of whom have pleaded with the country to set aside ideological differences to defeat Trump. The daughter of a covid-19 patient angrily blamed her father’s death on Trump during the broadcast, which repeatedly showed victims of the coronavirus.

The unprecedented virtual convention program, without crowds, floor fights or sign waving, reflected the extraordinary limits of current public health guidelines, as the country continues to keep socially distant in the face of a pandemic that has killed more than 167,000 Americans this year. Occasional live shots of Democratic delegates watching at home were cut in throughout the night to replicate some sense of a normal event.

Here’s the full speech.

The Daily Beast on Michelle Obama’s speech: Michelle’s New Stance: When They Go Low, We Square Up.

Concluding the opening night of a Democratic Convention that until a few minutes earlier had felt overly platitudinous, centrist and bloodless, Michelle Obama delivered a speech that was the opposite—impassioned, uplifting and, at the same time, full of truths about America that this country rarely likes to acknowledge about itself. One of the most astounding moments in a speech filled with them came when the former first lady revisited a line that has been endlessly quoted since she uttered it 2016.

But this time around, the ex-FLOTUS—in tacit recognition of the toll that four years of Donald Trump’s bottom-feeding, “no low is too low” style of leadership has taken on the nation—necessarily amended her words to line up with the darkness of our times. It’s worth quoting her at length here: “Over the past four years, a lot of people have asked me, “When others are going so low, does going high still really work?” My answer: going high is the only thing that works, because when we go low, when we use those same tactics of degrading and dehumanizing others, we just become part of the ugly noise that’s drowning out everything else,” Obama stated. “But let’s be clear: going high does not mean putting on a smile and saying nice things when confronted by viciousness and cruelty…. Going high means standing fierce against hatred while remembering that we are one nation under God, and if we want to survive, we’ve got to find a way to live together and work together across our differences.” [….]

She did not mince words, and instead spoke honestly about the cruelty of this president and his abettors with a full-throatedness we haven’t seen from her in the past. This was Michelle going after Trump, and to a certain degree, the voters that would prop up this president, in a way that was both eloquent and frank, relatable and empathic—all while showing how the current president lacks all of those traits.

In fact, a whole section of the speech was essentially a damning laundry list of the ways in which Trump’s endless narcissism and incompetence have damaged the country. She noted the 150,000 dead and the economic devastation that have resulted from “a virus that this president downplayed for too long.” She called out how Trump has tarnished America’s image abroad, destroying “alliances championed by presidents like Reagan and Eisenhower.” And she went hard at Trump for the most overt characteristic of this presidency, its unchecked, vicious racism.

In other news and opinion . . .

A former Trump administration official endorsed Joe Biden yesterday.

Miles Tayor at The Washington Post: At Homeland Security, I saw firsthand how dangerous Trump is for America.

After serving for more than two years in the Department of Homeland Security’s leadership during the Trump administration, I can attest that the country is less secure as a direct result of the president’s actions….
I wasn’t in a position to judge how his personal deficiencies affected other important matters, such as the environment or energy policy, but when it came to national security, I witnessed the damning results firsthand.

The president has tried to turn DHS, the nation’s largest law enforcement agency, into a tool used for his political benefit. He insisted on a near-total focus on issues that he said were central to his reelection — in particular building a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico. Though he was often talked out of bad ideas at the last moment, the president would make obviously partisan requests of DHS, including when he told us to close the California-Mexico border during a March 28, 2019, Oval Office meeting — it would be better for him politically, he said, than closing long stretches of the Texas or Arizona border — or to “dump” illegal immigrants in Democratic-leaning sanctuary cities and states to overload their authorities, as he insisted on several times.

Miles Taylor

Trump’s indiscipline was also a constant source of frustration. One day in February 2019, when congressional leaders were waiting for an answer from the White House on a pending deal to avoid a second government shutdown, the president demanded a DHS phone briefing to discuss the color of the wall. He was particularly interested in the merits of using spray paint and how the steel structure should be coated. Episodes like this occurred almost weekly.

The decision-making process was itself broken: Trump would abruptly endorse policy proposals with little or no consideration, by him or his advisers, of possible knock-on effects. That was the case in 2018 when then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced, at the White House’s urging, a “zero tolerance” policy to prosecute anyone who crossed the border illegally. The agencies involved were unprepared to implement the policy, causing a disastrous backlog of detentions that ultimately left migrant parents and their children separated.

Read the whole thing at the link if you haven’t already. Here’s video of Taylor’s endorsement:

Louis DeJoy, the man Trump handpicked to destroy the U.S. Postal Service will testify before House and Senate committees. That means Kamala Harris will have an opportunity to cross examine him.

Politico: DeJoy agrees to testify amid Dem fury over Postal Service changes.

On Sunday, Democrats moved up a request for DeJoy to testify to Monday, Aug. 24, calling it an “urgent” matter. The Oversight and Reform Committee hearing is likely to be tense, with Democrats loudly objecting to changes that have slowed mail delivery in numerous parts of the country amid President Donald Trump’s calls to restrict the use of mail-in ballots for the November election.

A number of Democrats have called on him to resign, and moderate House member Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), even said that he wanted DeJoy, a major Republican Party fundraiser, arrested by the House sergeant at arms if he didn’t agree to testify.

“Over the past several weeks, there have been startling new revelations about the scope and gravity of operational changes you are implementing at hundreds of postal facilities without consulting adequately with Congress, the Postal Regulatory Commission, or the Board of Governors,” House Oversight Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) wrote to DeJoy on Sunday, giving him a deadline of Monday to respond to the testimony invitation.

“Your testimony is particularly urgent given the troubling influx of reports of widespread delays at postal facilities across the country—as well as President Trump’s explicit admission last week that he has been blocking critical coronavirus funding for the Postal Service in order to impair mail-in voting efforts for the upcoming elections in November.”

The Washington Post: Senate will hold Postal Service hearing with DeJoy on Friday, as mail delay fears grow.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing Friday with Postmaster General Louis DeJoy on the U.S. Postal Service’s vote-by-mail financial requirements, according to two people familiar with the decision.

It will be DeJoy’s first opportunity to publicly answer lawmakers’ questions about the nation’s embattled mail service, which is experiencing delays as a result of policies DeJoy implemented cutting overtime and eliminating extra trips to ensure on-time mail delivery….

Democrats have alleged that DeJoy, a former Republican National Convention finance chairman, is taking steps that are causing dysfunction in the mail system and could wreak havoc in the presidential election….

The Postal Service is in the process of removing 671 high-speed mail-sorting machines nationwide this month, a process that will eliminate 21.4 million items per hour’s worth of processing capability from the agency’s inventory.

On Thursday and Friday, it began removing public collection boxes in parts of California, New York, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Montana. The agency said Friday that it would stop mailbox removals, which it said were routine, until after the election.

Lawsuits are also being prepared. ABC News: Multiple states ready suit against Trump admin over mail-in voting fears.

A group of Democratic state attorneys general are now in the final stages of preparing legal action against the Trump administration for recent cost-cutting changes made to the United States Postal Service, a lawsuit that one official said could demand a halt to any cutbacks that could impede mail-in voting.

As many as 10 state attorneys general are now involved, two state officials involved in the effort told ABC News. Among them is New York’s Letitia James, who called recent changes at the postal agency “deeply disturbing” in a statement released Monday.

The suit is expected to mount two major constitutional challenges to the recent cutbacks, according to one of the officials, a state government attorney. States will assert that the federal government is trying to impede their constitutional right to oversee their own elections. And they will argue that the Trump administration is interfering with every American’s individual right to participate in the election.

The lawsuit will also argue that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy failed to follow administrative procedures when he made cuts to overtime and decommissioned equipment – steps the states will ask the courts to halt, the attorney said….

The attorneys general from Connecticut and New York have joined a growing list of state leaders including those from Virginia, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Minnesota and Washington — all Democrats — in discussing how to sue the administration, sources said. Those conversations remain ongoing.

I’ll add more news links in the comment thread. I hope you all have a nice Tuesday!


Lazy Caturday Reads: 2020 and Impeachment

Good Morning!!

It’s looking like the media has successfully erased Kamala Harris’ candidacy, but yesterday Trump gave her a publicity boost. Trump was inexplicably given an award at a traditionally Black college in South Carolina, but only 10 students were invited to attend the forum, which was filled with Trump supporters.

Greenville News: President Trump addresses political allies as Benedict students are asked to stay in dorms.

COLUMBIA – In a way, what happened outside Benedict College’s gates in the heart of downtown felt quite small. At its peak, the crowd covered less than 100 yards of the sidewalk. But the scene itself represented something much bigger: the fractured, divisive, sometimes ugly and often loud American political climate.

Protests were mounted outside the 150-year-old historically black college where inside a school auditorium President Donald Trump spoke to a room filled with more political allies than students.

The event was billed as a keynote speech on bipartisan success in criminal justice reform, which the president tied to a booming economy that he told his audience has helped black people more than ever before.

Benedict students — some of whom pondered the week prior what questions they might ask the president once his surprise visit to the weekend-long “2019 Second Step Presidential Justice Forum” was announced — were asked to stay in their dorms.

Seven students were allowed inside for the speech….

The announcement that Trump would join came late and to the surprise of those participating in the forum. The original announcement of the event highlighted only that Democratic candidates were participating.

When Kamala Harris learned about Trump’s appearance she cancelled her own visit to Benedict College.

Trump attacked Harris for this on Twitter and this morning she responded.

I know it’s unlikely Americans are ready for Black woman as the Democratic nominee, but I continue to admire this woman greatly and I believe she will continue make a difference in the years to come.

Greenville News: Kamala Harris backs out of Benedict forum after Trump receives award on visit to SC.

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris has withdrawn from participating in the Second Step Presidential Justice Forum today at Benedict College after learning President Donald Trump received an award at the forum on Friday.

Harris, the junior senator from California, was due to speak at the event at the historically black college alongside fellow 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls, but she posted a message on Twitter announcing her withdrawal less than 24 hours before she was scheduled to speak.

She cited the Bipartisan Justice Award that the president received and event organization that left only nine Benedict students to be invited, only seven of whom were able to attend according to a school spokesperson.

“I won’t be complicit in papering over Trump’s record,” Harris tweeted in part before announcing she’ll instead take part in a panel at Benedict College’s Antisdel Chapel with Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin.

Joe Biden is still leading in most polls, but he has been struggling to raise money for his campaign.

Politico: Why Biden is getting crushed in the all-important money race.

Joe Biden’s campaign is drawing more support from big-ticket donors than any other candidate in the race — yet he still can’t match his rivals’ cash flow.

Biden has raised $20.7 million from contributions of at least $500 — $1.5 million more than his nearest competitor, despite entering the race later than all of them — thanks to the former vice president’s strong connections and goodwill among the traditional donors who have long financed the Democratic Party. Biden drew donations from 114 former big money fundraisers for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in the third quarter, the most of any Democrat, according to a POLITICO analysis.

But it’s been nowhere near enough to make Biden the leader of the fundraising pack. In fact, his big-dollar dominance, and his reliance on those donors, is more evidence of how quickly small-dollar donations have become the most important component of political fundraising in a sprawling, fractured Democratic race. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg are all outraising Biden, and stockpiling cash significantly faster than him, on the back of major support from online donors that Biden has been unable to build.

Biden is spending too much time holding big money fundraisers and not enough time campaigning. A bit more:

The bundler contributions and connections are helping keep Biden’s campaign afloat, but some of those donors are cringing at the way Biden is running his campaign.

“I don’t think Joe Biden is going to be the nominee,” said one major fundraiser, who said he gave to Biden out of loyalty during the third quarter. “I think there’s a thirst for something down the road taking us towards something bigger and better. That’s not going to be Joe Biden, for whom I have the utmost respect. He is acting his age and showing his age.”

Much more at the Politico link. Yesterday Biden approved formation of a super pac. Politico: Biden throws his campaign a lifeline.

By reversing course and dropping his opposition to super PACs, Joe Biden has all but admitted he’s getting swamped in fundraising.

But it was a strategic retreat that could end up paying big dividends for his cash-starved campaign.

Calls to a half-dozen maxed-out Biden donors Friday revealed that they would gladly dig deeper for the former vice president and contribute to a super PAC that enables them — and corporations — to give and spend unlimited amounts of money.

The witching hour by Lisa Parker

“Joe Biden has not raised as much money as the others through his own campaign efforts. But you have to understand, that’s basically how it works. Bernie Sanders had, what, 20,000 people at an event in New York? Suppose each one of those people gave $100,” said Joe Cotchett, a major Bay Area bundler for Biden. “Does Joe have the ability to have 20,000 people at a rally right now? The answer is no. But hopefully for Joe, it will come.”

Harold Schaitberger, head of the International Association of Fire Fighters, which has already endorsed Biden, said it would likely commit to a Biden super PAC.

“We would be in a position to support that effort,” said Schaitberger. “We’re certainly capable of spending in the six figures.

We’ll see. I still don’t think Biden will win the nomination, but at this point, I’ve stopped caring. I’ll vote for Kamala if she’s still around on Super Tuesday, and I’ll hold my nose and vote for whoever the Dems nominate. I don’t think we’ll beat Trump in an election. He has to be impeached and removed or forced to resign. There’s no evidence right now that the 2020 election will be legitimate.

Another problem for Biden is the drip drip drip about his son Hunter. If he is the nominee, the Republicans will talk about Hunter non-stop, and it won’t matter if he did anything illegal. He certainly traded on his father’s name. The latest from The New York Times: Giuliani Is Drawing Attention to Hunter Biden’s Work in Romania. But There’s a Problem.

Rudolph W. Giuliani, President Trump’s personal lawyer, signaled this month that he planned to open a new front in his attacks against former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. — work done by Mr. Biden’s son Hunter Biden for a wealthy Romanian business executive facing corruption charges.

But there’s a problem with that strategy: Mr. Giuliani participated in an effort that would have helped the same executive, and was in fact recruited to do so by Louis J. Freeh, a former F.B.I. director who had been brought onto the matter by Hunter Biden.

In effect, Mr. Giuliani and Hunter Biden were on the same team, if not at the same time. And their work to help the business executive, along with that of Mr. Freeh, stood in contrast to efforts by the United States, including Vice President Biden while he was in office, to encourage anti-corruption efforts in Romania.

The dynamic in Romania underscores how Mr. Giuliani has done a brisk international business with clients who sometimes seem to be seeking to capitalize on his connections to Mr. Trump even as he has accused Hunter Biden of seeking to capitalize on his father’s name while doing business in other countries. And the disclosure of the connection between his role in Romania and Mr. Biden’s comes at a time when Mr. Giuliani, the former New York mayor, is under investigation by federal prosecutors in New York for possible violations of foreign lobbying laws.

Trump will bash Hunter unmercifully if Biden is the nominee and it won’t matter that Trump is far more corrupt and that his own children are raking in millions through his presidency. The media doesn’t focus on Trump’s nepotism now and they likely won’t in 2020. The focus will be on “both sides,” and pretending that Joe and Hunter’s questionable ethics or, even worse, Elizabeth Warren’s long history of claiming Native American ancestry. It will be the new “her emails.”

I’m sorry to sound so negative today. It’s still a long time until the primaries begin, but it’s not looking good right now. The good news is that the Impeachment inquiry is going full speed ahead.

Catbatting by Maggie Vandewalle

The New York Times: Impeachment Inquiry Is Legal, Judge Rules, Giving Democrats a Victory.

A federal judge handed a victory to House Democrats on Friday when she ruled that they were legally engaged in an impeachment inquiry, a decision that undercut President Trump’s arguments that the investigation is a sham.

The declaration came in a 75-page opinion by Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell of the Federal District Court in Washington. She ruled that the House Judiciary Committee was entitled to view secret grand jury evidence gathered by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.

Typically, Congress has no right to view such evidence. But in 1974, the courts permitted lawmakers to see such materials as they weighed whether to impeach President Richard M. Nixon. The House is now immersed in the same process focused on Mr. Trump, Judge Howell ruled, and that easily outweighs any need to keep the information secret from lawmakers.

And in a rebuke to the Trump administration, she wrote that the White House strategy to stonewall the House had actually strengthened lawmakers’ case. She cited Mr. Trump’s vow to fight “all” congressional subpoenas and an extraordinary directive by his White House counsel, Pat A. Cipollone, that executive branch officials should not provide testimony or documents to impeachment investigators.

“The White House’s stated policy of noncooperation with the impeachment inquiry weighs heavily in favor of disclosure,” Judge Howell wrote. “Congress’s need to access grand jury material relevant to potential impeachable conduct by a president is heightened when the executive branch willfully obstructs channels for accessing other relevant evidence.”

Of course we don’t know what the right-wing SCOTUS will ultimately decide.

One more interesting piece from Just Security: George Washington’s Advisors Agreed: Impeachment Did Away with Executive Privilege.

President George Washington’s decision to withhold diplomatic papers from the House of Representatives with respect to the Jay Treaty has become an important precedent in current debates over executive privilege. Earlier this month, the White House Counsel’s Office invoked this precedent as its first cited source in claiming executive privilege with respect to the scope of the testimony of Fiona Hill, the former top Russia advisor on the National Security Council. And as the Ukraine affair first came to light and impeachment entered the discussion, John Yoo, writing for the New York Times, cited this precedent as a major stumbling block that would thwart any impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump’s abuse of his diplomatic powers.

But as one of us pointed out in a recent post for Just Security, Washington clearly signaled that executive privilege would not be available if the House were pursuing an impeachment inquiry. In withholding the papers, he wrote that

“It does not occur that the inspection of the papers asked for can be relative to any purpose under the cognizance of the House of Representatives, except that of an impeachment, which the resolution [requesting the papers] has not expressed.”

(Judge Naomi Rao recently quoted this language in drawing a distinction between the information that Congress can access in an impeachment proceedings as opposed to lawmaking in a dissent.)

Earlier this week, we published an op-ed, highlighting this and other evidence from the Founding era and discussed its significance for current events. While writing, we were impressed by just how unanimous Washington’s advisors were on an impeachment carve-out to executive privilege. Here are some key quotes (with emphasis added), from Washington’s Cabinet (whose advice he had requested) and several others…

Read the rest at the link. Maybe the courts will save us yet–if Chief Justice Roberts can bring himself to care about the Constitution more than partisanship.

I’ll add more links in the comment thread. What stories have you been following?