Bearing Witness to Trump Month 45 Oct 18 – 24

Due to the Trump Administration’s lack of leadership, coronavirus infections have soared past 80,000 per day across the country and its territories, the highest ever, as the third wave gains momentum. Total cases reached 8.4 million with now just under 125,000 deaths. Hospital admissions are rising in 38 states with nearly all of them having hot spots. Health experts warn the new wave is far more dangerous than the first two as it is spread across the entire country in urban and rural areas, and across all age groups. Before this new surge it was possible to move health care workers around in a state or region to meet demand. Now, that is far more difficult with shortages of staff and critical drugs being reported.

Some doctors are warning that the next 12 weeks will be the darkest days of the entire pandemic. What dread this bring as we thought we heard that about this past summer . The University of Washington predicts that the death toll by Feb. may approach 400,000, nearly twice the present count. If those in the Trump Administration who are championing the lifting of restrictions to accelerate “herd immunity” get there way – what many say would be a criminal act of murder – deaths could rise to a staggering 800,000.

The CDC updated its count of excess deaths, which are those fatalities unexpected in normal times, for the year through October to be close to 300,000. This is some 75,000 above official COVID death reports. They cite nearly 100,000 more deaths indirectly related to complications from COVID that would not have occurred otherwise. I can attest to that by looking at the obituary pages in my local rural county newspaper which are twice the size of last year’s. Few conservative families in the mostly red rural heartland in which I am a blue speck are willing to admit the deaths of their loved ones was related to a disease their President dismisses as being for the weak..

The deepening third-wave crisis does not keep President Trump nor Vice President Pence off the campaign trail where they continue to misrepresent and lie to the American people that we have turned the corner,  the pandemic is about over, and the administration has done a good job. And to never miss an opportunity to make it all about him the President said “we’re in the best shape we’ve ever been in.” As more than 700 Americans die each day the President claimed people are tired of hearing about COVID-19, and that as soon as the election is over the fake news media will stop talking about it. The Vice President refused to follow recommendations of his own Pandemic Task Force, which he chairs, and isolate himself after members of his staff whom he was in close contact report being tested positive. Rules are after all only for suckers.

During the week Trump finds time to once again disparage the one man most Americans trust the most, Dr. Anthony Fauci, by labeling him a “disaster” and an “idiot.” Trump was angry because Dr. Fauci recently warned the public about the upcoming fall wave of cases and the need to reconsider new restrictions. Fauci also said he was not surprised the President’s garden party ended up being a super-spreader event. Not only did the President never take any responsibility for it, but they refused to conduct contact tracing or allow health agencies to do so. 

A new public affairs research poll shows that only 16% of those who responded completely trust information about the pandemic and coronavirus from the President. The public’s trust in the once widely-respected CDC and FDA, now under partisan control by the Trump Administration, has also been eroded to record lows. Is there anything the President has touched that has not been fouled or ruined?

In a campaign rally in Detroit the President whips up his mostly maskless crowd into chanting “lock her up” in reference to Michigan Democrat Governor Whitmer. Trump joined in saying “lock them all up” which makes him fit right in with other demagogues, despots, and dictators over history. Whitmer is a Democrat who just a few weeks ago had been targeted by right-wing nationalists for kidnapping and murdering. The Governor responded with what we are all thinking, the President of the United States is inciting domestic terrorism. I would go further that he is acting like a terrorist in all that he has destroyed and by risking the lives of others in his disregard of how the virus spreads. He has become our very own weapon of mass delusion and mass destruction.

Trump continues to crisscross the Midwest and East holding campaign rallies with thousands in attendance. He throws out hats to the crowd all while not wearing a mask or practicing social distancing. In North Carolina he complained that all TV news wants to talk about is “covid, covid, covid.” He then claimed that case counts are high only because we are doing so much testing. All this while the country experienced over 80,000 new cases in one day, which if mortality rates hold will likely lead to a thousand new deaths.

In another interview on Fox News the President said that his Attorney General William Barr has to “act fast” to investigate the Bidens and former President Obama for “major corruption.” This is in addition to his previous calls to persecute Hillary Clinton. The politicization of the Justice Department to prosecute past and present political opponents is without modern-day precedence in American history.

The President walked out of a CBS 60 Minutes interview in a huff after tough questioning declaring they are fake and biased. Trump had the White House record the interview as CBS filmed it saying it was only for historic archives. Then, not surprising, Trump broke the agreement by releasing the interview before CBS broadcast it. Why does anyone believe Trump will honor any agreement he ever makes?

In another sign of how bad things have become and how many historic norms have been broken, former President Obama hits the campaign trail for Joe Biden with broad attacks against Trump. Up until the Trump presidency it was unheard of for ex-presidents to comment upon much less condemn a sitting president. But then we have a president who has broken nearly every norm of his office and threatened the democratic foundation of the country including jailing his political opponents.

A new study says that under the Trump Administration the USA has lost ground to China. Our trade deficit is up, China’s economy is recovering faster after the pandemic, fewer people have died because of it in China compared to our own poor handling of the crisis, we have pissed off our allies around the world, and lost our moral influence and leadership.

In a rare evening news conference just two weeks before election day, the Directors of the FBI and National Intelligence warned that Iran and Russia were interfering in the US election. Iran was cited by John Ratcliffe, a Trump loyalist with few qualifications to run the national intelligence apparatus, as attempting to hurt Trump while Russia’s influence likely to help him was not highlighted. Emails were cited that were sent to voters in Florida using hacked voter data. They threatened voters if they did not vote for Trump that they would come after the voters as they know where they lived. And this was said to help Biden? Most understood this news conference for what it was. Trump wanted his Justice Dept. and  National Security agency to start normalizing a conclusion that the election results are not to be trusted. This would set Trump up for refusing to concede the election should he lose.

Meanwhile around the country Trump supporters are showing up at early voting sites creating havoc with rallies, vehicle parades, noise, signs, and music. Trump has encouraged this behavior along with the deployment of an army of poll watchers. Some ballot drop boxes have been set on fire. Sherriff deputies are patrolling outside some voting sites to keep the peace as if we were a third world struggling democracy. This is the America Trump has made.

Trump and Biden appeared in a rather civilized last debate before the election. There was substantial discussion of policy differences, even though the President continued to misstate, distort and outright lie. As example, Trump claimed he was the “least racist person in the room” and had done more for African Americans that anyone other than Abraham Lincoln. Yes, he said that. Trump said the country is learning to live with COVID. Biden responded that under Trump people are having to learn how to die with it. The President attempted to exploit a likely Russian disinformation campaign that was said to have produced emails of wrong doing by Joe Biden’s son, Hunter.   The biggest surprise of the evening might have been the time allotted to climate change. In the 2016 election and debates there was very little reference to it.

The debate was not expected to make much of a difference with most minds made up and over 50 million Americans already having voted. But why Biden would agree to another debate after the President’s behavior at the last one is beyond me. It just demonstrates that bullying behavior will be rewarded not punished, something Trump has gotten away with his entire life. Biden is not that good of a debater, makes ample gaffes, is not as fast on his feet, takes copious notes while on stage, and is on the defense much of the time. And then he was off the campaign trail for most of the week of the debate while supposedly preparing. It is not surprising that when a Democrat is finally winning an election they find a way to lose. I often think that given the poor performance of Democrats over the years that they must have Republican plants in their campaigns driving their strategy.

New job losses were slightly less this week than previous, now falling below 800,000 according to new filings for state unemployment insurance. This is the lowest since the pandemic recession began destroying jobs in March. The total count of those receiving state unemployment is said to have also fallen to 8.4 million. However, this may be due not to the unemployed finding jobs, but finding that they have been kicked off the roles, having exceeded their state’s benefit period which is typically 6 months or even less, or have given up looking for a job all together until the storm passes. The Ludwig Institute claims that the federally reported unemployment rate from the BLS is artificially depressed and the functional unemployment rate is actually closer to 25%, not 8%. This would include all those who seek a paying full-time job but cannot find one, and settle for a few hours of part-time work which removes them from the official count of the unemployed.

Trump’s Republican co-conspirators in the Senate are showing some courage to stand up to the President’s behavior, but it is for all the reasons. Of all things they could have challenged this President on, it is his support of the next round of pandemic relief aid for the American economy, workers, businesses, and local governments. It is now unlikely that a deal will be struck by election day as millions of Americans exhaust their state unemployment benefits.

The housing market for the well employed and wealthy continues to boom due to historically low interest rates and rapidly rising home values, locking out many first-time buyers.  The median price of a home has risen nearly 15% over a year ago. And when the rich can borrow money at 2.5% and immediately get a gain of 15%, well, that is just one example of why the pandemic is accelerating the inequality of wealth. On the other end of the spectrum, over 3 million distressed homeowners are in forbearance of their mortgage payments. Many of them may eventually lose their homes to become part of the renter class as investors and private equity funds exploit the market and cheap money by buying up properties in all cash deals in which the poor cannot compete. The pandemic is reported to have even widen the wealth gap in China which is said to also be experiencing a “K” recovery.

The above news items have been taken from a number of local, regional, national and international news media  including print, broadcast, and digital sources, but no social media. Additional editorial opinions and comments about these news items are those of this author.

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