Thursday, December 03, 2020

The Winter Mitch McConnell Created


The Winter Mitch McConnell Created

Will we have Covid-19 relief or jobless agony?


By David Brooks

Opinion Columnist

  • Dec. 3, 2020, 6:30 p.m. ET

If we can’t get a Covid-19 relief package through Congress in the next week or two, we’re sunk. It means we have a legislative branch so ideologically divided it can’t address even our most glaring problems. It means we have representatives so lacking in the willingness and ability to compromise that minimally competent government will be impossible, even under a President Joe Biden.

The problems a basic relief measure would address couldn’t be more obvious. Under current law, up to 12 million Americans could lose their jobless benefits by year’s end — a wretched Christmastime for millions of families, which could spawn a wave of depression, morbidity, family breakdown and suicide.

Millions of people could be evicted from their homes. Thousands more businesses may close during the long winter months before a vaccine is widely available. These are not failing, unproductive businesses. These are good, strong businesses that would have provided jobs and opportunity for millions of Americans for decades if they hadn’t been hit by the pandemic.

Wendy Edelberg of the Hamilton Project calculates that if nothing passes, the U.S. economy will be $1 trillion smaller in 2021 and $500 billion smaller in 2022.

The means to prevent this suffering are also glaringly obvious. We did it less than a year ago with the CARES Act. All we have to do is pass a version of what we did before. How hard can this possibly be?

The $2 trillion CARES Act was one of the most successful pieces of legislation of modern times. Because of the lockdowns, U.S. economic output contracted by a horrific 9 percent in the second quarter of 2020, compared with the first quarter. But because of the CARES Act, disposable household incomes increased by 10 percent. The personal savings rate increased by 34 percent in April.

I don’t love big government, but government is supposed to step up in a crisis, and with the CARES Act, it did.

Since summer, as the economy has deteriorated, Congress has been gridlocked on how to pass a supplemental relief package. At times Nancy Pelosi has been rigidly uncompromising, as if not wanting to hand Donald Trump a victory. But the core problem is that Republicans have applied a dogmatically ideological approach to a situation in which it is not germane and is in fact ruthlessly destructive.

Some Republicans act as if this is a normal recession and the legislation in front of them is a conventional Keynesian stimulus bill. But this is not a normal recession. It’s a natural disaster. The proposals on offer are not conventional stimulus. They are measures to defend our national economic infrastructure from that disaster over the next five brutal months.

I agree with Janet Yellen, Joe Biden’s choice for Treasury secretary, who said, “The U.S. debt path is completely unsustainable under current tax and spending plans.” But that concern is for another day. Right now, we need to protect the workers and businesses that generate wealth in this society.

Either we roar out of this pandemic with the economic might and surging wages we enjoyed in 2019, or we endure another decade of grinding stagnation, more populist anger, more people losing faith in America. Microscopic interest rates make this additional debt a relatively easy lift for us.

The 2020 election results have powerfully strengthened moderates. After months of gridlock the moderates took charge this week, crafting a bipartisan $908 billion relief compromise. Led by Senators Susan Collins, Joe Manchin, Mitt Romney and Mark Warner and endorsed by a bipartisan group of House members from the Problem Solvers Caucus, it is big enough to make a real difference and includes two thorny issues, aid to the states and liability protection, which should, on the merits, be in the law.

This is how democracy is supposed to work! Partisans stake out positions and then dealmakers reach a compromise. This is a glimpse of the sort of normal-functioning democratic process that has been largely missing since Newt Gingrich walked onstage lo these many decades ago.

To their great credit, Pelosi and Chuck Schumer embraced the bipartisan framework. Mitch McConnell went on the Senate floor Thursday, pretended to soften, ignored the compromise and did not move an inch.

McConnell may think the Democrats will eventually come to him because something is better than nothing. But his proposal cannot pass. Democrats in the House will not accept a complete capitulation to McConnell on every front.

For the first time in a long time we have a core group of moderates, progressives and conservatives willing to practice politics — willing to work with the other party toward a reasonable solution.

Talks between the moderates and McConnell continue. But if McConnell won’t do a deal now, in the midst of a clear crisis and under a Republican president, there certainly won’t be one with more controversial issues under a Democratic president in 2021. If we don’t see a Covid-19 relief measure pass in the next week or two, then our democracy is existentially broken.

If that happens, McConnell should spend Christmas with people thrown out of work and witness the suffering he has caused.

David Brooks has been a columnist with The Times since 2003. He is the author of “The Road to Character” and, most recently, “The Second Mountain.” @nytdavidbrooks




The most petulant 46 minutes in American history



Philip Bump

Dec. 2, 2020 at 9:17 p.m. EST

It was four weeks distilled to less than an hour.


Over the length of a 46-minute video posted to social media Wednesday, President Trump read and riffed on a prepared script lambasting those who had the audacity to suggest that receiving fewer votes than his opponent meant he shouldn’t serve a second consecutive term in office. It was the functional equivalent of one of his beloved campaign rallies, both in the sense that it offered the same meandering range and, quite obviously, the same relief for his frustrations. It was also clearly no small undertaking; the numerous cuts in the final product suggested that what was offered to the country was a subset of what Trump had to say to the camera. This was a project. Good thing Trump rarely has any official duties on his calendar anymore.


What the video wasn’t was a compelling argument for the idea that the 2020 presidential contest was somehow marred by fraud. It was, almost literally, a distillation of the past four weeks of rants, allegations and accusations, including countless examples of claims which have already been soundly debunked. That sudden surge of votes seen in Wisconsin, something so compelling in Trump’s eyes that he brought a visual aid to demonstrate it? We dispatched that on Nov. 11: It was just the county of Milwaukee reporting its results. Whether it’s more worrisome if Trump knew it had been debunked or if he didn’t is up to you to determine.


Since polls closed Nov. 3, Trump’s public response to his loss has been one of exasperation, the spoiled child suddenly told that he can’t do something he wants to do. Some part of this is political, an effort to lash out at President-elect Joe Biden and to impose an emotional cost on Democrats broadly. But there’s obviously something deeper and more psychological at play, a darker shadow of refusal and frustration and fury that can’t as easily be countered with simple rationality.


For all of the reporting about how Trump understands that he lost the race and is discussing a potential run in 2024, the speech released Wednesday did not convey any calculated assessment of the situation. It was a cri de coeur that, given the season, begs comparisons to the Festivus airing of grievances from George Costanza’s father on “Seinfeld” — another older Queens man unable to gracefully accept the nature of the world around him.


Introducing that comparison, though, risks diminishing the danger of Trump’s commentary.


Again, there wasn’t anything new to it. It was a pastiche of so much that we’ve heard so often. It presented no coherent case for the existence of fraud, instead substituting a volume of accusations for an abundance of proof. Having hundreds of people make unfounded allegations isn’t proof of wrongdoing, as any review of those sheaves of affidavits collected by Trump’s campaign from various supporters makes clear. Having one person make hundreds of unfounded allegations isn’t proof either — but Trump’s goal isn’t proving each point. It’s getting Americans to accept maybe just one or two, so that they’re receptive to his broader point: Something Must Be Done.


That something isn’t clear. At first it was to block the counting of ballots that were showing he lost key states such as Pennsylvania. Then it was to block the certification of votes in states such as Michigan. Then it was to try to get state legislatures to appoint new, Trump-friendly electors to the electoral college. Then it was to get a case to the Supreme Court where something magical would slice through the Gordian knot tied by American voters.


In the speech, Trump made vague demands that someone — anyone — intervene.

“This election was rigged. Everybody knows it,” he said. “I don’t mind if I lose an election, but I want to lose an election fair and square. What I don’t want to do is have it stolen from the American people. That’s what we’re fighting for, and we have no choice to be doing that.”


“We already have the proof. We already have the evidence, and it’s very clear,” he continued. “Many people in the media — and even judges — so far have refused to accept it. They know it’s true. They know it’s there. They know who won the election, but they refuse to say you’re right. Our country needs somebody to say, ‘You’re right.’ ”


He’s not right. His purported evidence is nothing more than a dusting of allegations from motivated parties claiming that something unprovably wrong occurred. The media does know who won the election: Joe Biden. But, for whatever reason, Trump cannot bring himself to say that.


There’s a new burbling among Trump’s supporters that follows his claims to their logical endpoint. His former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and his former attorney have endorsed the idea that Trump should somehow try to step outside the boundaries of the Constitution to force some sort of re-vote supervised by the military: an overt coup to supplant Trump’s lazier attempt. Trump didn’t endorse that idea in his speech, but, given what he’s already endorsed, we shouldn’t assume the thought hasn’t crossed his mind.


The essential question of the moment is how far Trump wants to go. Was this his way of sulking? Was the speech a lengthy vent, an airing of grievances without peer in American history? Or was it a sign Trump will continue to want to push the understood boundaries of what our electoral system allows?

The second most important question is whether his enthusiastic base of supporters will recognize the difference between those two motivations.




Philip Bump

Philip Bump is a correspondent for The Washington Post based in New York. Before joining The Post in 2014, he led politics coverage for the Atlantic Wire.Follow


Wednesday, December 02, 2020

Bye Bye Loser - New Video


If William Barr can admit Trump lost, why can’t other Republican


If William Barr can admit Trump lost, why can’t other Republicans?

Opinion by 

Jennifer Rubin


Dec. 2, 2020 at 10:00 a.m. EST

The Post reports: “Attorney General William P. Barr told the Associated Press on Tuesday that he has ‘not seen fraud on a scale that could have affected a different outcome in the election,’ undercutting claims that President Trump and his allies have made — without evidence — of widespread and significant voting irregularities.” Barr also batted down the incoherent and utterly false assertion from Trump’s lawyers that, as he put it during an interview with the Associated Press, “machines were programmed essentially to skew the election results.” Clearly, the attorney general has come a long way from his efforts to foment the false assertion that voting by mail was inherently vulnerable to fraud.

While some may feel tempted to praise Barr for acknowledging reality, the critical issue is why he so enthusiastically joined Trump’s attempt before Nov. 3 to delegitimize our election. Moreover, why has he not admonished Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Trump for seeming to put pressure on state election officials to refuse certifying valid results? And why did he appoint U.S. Attorney John Durham on Tuesday as special counsel into the origins of the Russia probe — an outrageously partisan and likely illegal move that guarantees the investigation will continue into the incoming Biden administration? Barr apparently needs reminding that, without hope of cover from the president, his hyperpoliticization of the Justice Department (e.g., spinning the Mueller report, intervening in the Michael Flynn case) might come under scrutiny in the next administration.

In any case, a voice of sanity — once more from outside D.C. — reminds us just how irresponsible congressional Republicans have been by remaining silent about Trump’s ongoing efforts to undermine the election. Georgia voting official Gabe Sterling, a Republican, denounced the president’s behavior as well as the public suggestion from Trump lawyer Joe diGenova that fired cybersecurity official Christopher Krebs be “executed.” (DiGenova later implausibly claimed he was joking): 

[Joe diGenova takes a page right out of Trump’s book of lying and then denying crooked. constant claims whenever he says something totally stupid or criminal and then when challenged he asserts that he was just joking or kidding – he’s a disgusting pig right up there with the Liar-in-Chief and the King of Clorox]

Video Address:


Sterling rightly slammed both Trump and Republican senators for allowing this circus to take place, resulting in threats of violence against local officials. Republicans may want to delude themselves with the argument that their silence does no harm, but Sterling quite effectively explained why this is utterly false. No valid legal claims remain; Barr confirms there is no there there. Yet Republicans in Congress, petrified of Trump and his red-hatted brigades, hide under their desks — or worse, play along with Trump’s lie that there is some doubt in the outcome.

The result could be deadly. As Ronald Brownstein aptly stated, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) are “abetting Trump’s baseless conspiracy claims with full warning that could be the eventual outcome. It’s not like they haven’t been warned through the proliferation of death threats [against] local election officials.”

Republicans in the Senate and House — not to mention the lawyers filing baseless lawsuits on Trump’s behalf — must be held accountable. At the very least, the media should cease repeating their claims of voter fraud, which only amplifies justifications for the kind of conduct Sterling denounced. When Republicans appear for questions from the media, this should be the first and — until they respond — only topic. The incoming attorney general should order a full review of post-election shenanigans and make recommendations to prevent even the appearance of pressure on local officials and to automatically trigger the presidential transition process when a winner becomes clear.

And, finally, Democrats in the Senate need to confront their Republican colleagues on the floor and in hearings. Why are they indulging in anti-democratic conspiracies? Why are they not responding to local Republicans’ calls to denounce the subversion of our election? Sterling is right: Enough.

Tuesday, December 01, 2020











Trump is an expert in making money off losing. Now he’s doing it again.



Opinion by 

Max Boot


Dec. 1, 2020 at 2:46 p.m. EST

The end of the coronavirus pandemic is in sight, but the last stage is turning out to be the most virulent. The same might be said of the Trump presidency.


All six battleground states that President Trump was contesting have certified their election results. The results of the electoral college vote on Dec. 14 are a foregone conclusion. Even Attorney General William P. Barr says: “To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have affected a different outcome.” But instead of graciously conceding, Trump and his cultists are becoming more venomous and unhinged as the end draws near.


Trump’s Twitter feed remains devoted to promoting outlandish conspiracy theories about how the election was supposedly stolen; he even retweeted a user named “Catturd” to make his case. His former lawyer Sidney Powell retweeted a demand that the president “use the Insurrection Act, Suspend the December Electoral College Vote, and set up Military Tribunals immediately.” One of his current lawyers, Joe diGenova, says that former cybersecurity official Christopher Krebs, who was fired by Trump for rebutting his claims of fraud, “should be drawn and quartered. Taken out at dawn and shot.”


The Trump revolution is now devouring its own children. The president is attacking supporters such as Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona and Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia because they will not toss out the election results in their states. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, another loyal Republican, needs bodyguards because of all the death threats he and his family are getting. Even Georgia Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue — both of whom disgraced themselves by demanding that Raffensperger resign — haven’t gone far enough for some of the faithful. They are being accused of being “liberal DemoRats.”


Republicans are worried that some of their voters will not turn out in the Jan. 5 Georgia runoffs, which will determine control of the U.S. Senate, because they have been fed paranoid fantasies about ballot machines controlled by the ghost of Hugo Ch├ívez. If so, it would serve the Republican Party right. This would be poetic justice for a party that has indulged its leader’s mad whims for so long.


“If Republicans don’t start condemning this stuff, then I think they’re really complicit in it,” Raffensperger told The Post. “It’s time to stand up and be counted. Are you going to stand for righteousness? Are you going to stand for integrity? Or are you going to stand for the wild mob?”


Raffensperger’s naivete is touching. Where has he been the past four years? Most Republicans are too terrified of the mob that Trump has mobilized to challenge anything that he does — even when he is mounting an unprecedented assault on the integrity of our electoral system.


The good news is that Trump will soon leave office. The bad news is that he will never admit that he lost to Biden by more than 6 million votes, and neither will his millions of devoted followers. (A new poll finds that less than a third of Trump voters express confidence in the election results.) He will continue claiming until the day he dies that he is a victim of a vast conspiracy encompassing both Republican and Democratic officials — a plot so fiendishly effective that no evidence of its machinations can be found.


Given that Trump cares nothing about the public weal, why should he ever admit defeat? Keeping the long con going not only offers a salve for his wounded ego but also possible salvation for his debt-riddled balance sheet. (Forbes reports that he owes at least $1 billion.)


Trump’s political operation has raised more than $150 million since Election Day with fraudulent claims of fraud. The campaign wasted $3 million on a recount in Wisconsin that expanded Biden’s lead in that state by 87 votes. It might as well have used donors’ money to light Donald Trump Jr.’s cigars — and it still might. As my colleague Philip Bump notes, contributions to Trump’s political action committee, Save America PAC, can be used “to fund basically anything,” including “memberships at golf clubs,” “travel,” “rallies,” “even payments directly to Trump himself, as long as he declares it as income.”


Trump claims to be an expert on winning. His actual area of expertise is how to profit from losing. He survived the bankruptcy of six of his businesses, and he will survive the moral bankruptcy of his presidency. He has now figured out how to monetize assaults on our democracy. He will keep going at least until 2024, and then either regain the Republican nomination for himself or hand it off to a favored sycophant.


A new McLaughlin/Newsmax poll of the 2024 Republican primary without Trump has Donald Trump Jr. tied for the lead with Vice President Pence at 20 percent. Ivanka Trump is at 4 percent. This isn’t the Republican Party. It’s the Trumplican Party. Support for the supreme leader trumps, so to speak, any devotion to democracy.


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