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On the roster: Doing as Americans do - Details emerge on bailout - Coronavirus remakes 2020 map - Trump wants to hit the campaign trail - Hey, Mambo!
DOING AS AMERICANS DO
We humans have some strongly superstitious tendencies, especially when it comes to matters mortal.
People are sometimes even afraid to name our physical afflictions for fear that it will give them power. It’s only been 20 years or so that Americans will say “cancer” out loud. We still tend to lower our voices a bit when we talk about most of the viruses that afflict us.
And we are always rightly anxious about taking credit for work undone.
So we are not here to suggest in any way that the work of defeating coronavirus is done. Nor do we mean to diminish in any way the ongoing sacrifices being made by individuals, families and those in the healing vocations.
Neither do we mean to have a discussion about the economic consequences of what we’re doing or the real financial suffering that will occur in the months ahead for those whose sacrifices are yet to come.
But it is just and right for Americans to be proud right now. Our country is acquitting itself with grace, ingenuity, generosity and a fundamental kind of civic decency that no nation of this size could ever dream of reaching.
It is quite often against the interests of politicians and their admirers in the media to talk about good news, especially when the good news is a product of unity and cooperation.
Fear, anger and resentment are blunter and more easily wielded weapons than optimism, love and mutual respect. The latter takes courage, while any coward can do the former. Take a look at the political ads already being shoved up your nose like a botched COVID-19 test and you know that’s true.
But six weeks into the corona quarantine, there’s a great deal for Americans to celebrate.
When the first Boeing workers returned this week to its Washington plants – the same plants that once produced the bombers that helped defeat tyranny around the globe 75 years ago – you can imagine the pride they felt. In the state where we first saw the true destructive power of this illness, those men and women have started taking their lives back.
When doctors, nurses and other health professionals in New York finally lay down for their first real sleep in weeks, they can do so with the knowledge that they are helping to kick coronavirus, as they would say out on Staten Island, right in the agates. New York – loud, pushy, crowded and boastful – wasn’t going to let some pipsqueak virus break it. Our heart hurts along with them as they bear the brunt, but we celebrate with them too in their successes.
And as other cities and, increasingly, small communities and rural areas, face down the virus, they will do so with confidence because of what we’ve witnessed in New York.
And then there are the millions of minor miracles.
No government can compel decency, thoughtfulness and fellow feeling. No stay at home order could keep a nation this vast, diverse and defiant locked up inside. Instead, what we’ve seen from institutions and individuals is a remarkable display of compassionate good citizenship.
There’s fraying at the edges, sure, but don’t let that distract you from the bigger story, which is the success of this great national project and our achievement of it as free people.
Again, we’re not saying that the work is done or that the physical and economic dangers are past. By no means. But we can be both proud and grieved at the same time. We can acknowledge our remarkable national achievement and its reflection of our American character without forgetting the suffering and sacrifices of our countrymen now and in the months to come.
The old saying goes that you can be right or you can be happy, but you usually can’t be both. What we sometimes forget is how often people choose against happiness in that equation.
That’s one of the reasons why people are prone to focus on bad news — sometimes to the point of seeming to wish for it — if it proves them right.
There are some who are so eager to be proven right about their dire projections about infections and mortality that they struggle to see good news as it presents itself. There are others who very much want to be proven right about their dire economic forecasts. They will struggle to take to heart those things that suggest and eventual return to prosperity.
There’s so little we know about what the next six months will look like, and the dangers we face are real. Our economy is in a coma, the global order looks extremely unsettled and we could still end up with a second, deadlier bloom of this damnable virus.
But at the very least, let us greet those challenges as Americans do: With optimism, determination and virtue. We are showing now from sea to shining sea that we still have the stuff.
THE RULEBOOK: EVERYBODY MAKES MISTAKES
“The founders of our republics have so much merit for the wisdom which they have displayed, that no task can be less pleasing than that of pointing out the errors into which they have fallen.” – James Madison, Federalist No. 48
TIME OUT: IT’S ONLY FAIR
Smithsonian: “As the first black umpire in Major League Baseball, Emmett Ashford encountered plenty of hostility. … Ashford’s position was indeed a lonely one. Throughout his 20 years umpiring in the minor and major leagues, he was almost always the only black umpire on the field, and was sometimes subjected to racial epithets. But Ashford weathered these with grace. Today, the Spalding face mask he wore behind the plate is a tangible reminder of the courageous men and women who integrated U.S. sports after World War II. Still, only ten African-Americans have followed directly in Ashford’s footsteps, and it wasn’t until this past February that Major League Baseball hired its first black umpire crew chief, Kerwin Danley. … Ashford’s entry into umpiring was largely accidental. … For one game in 1941, the story goes, the scheduled umpire didn’t show up, and Ashford was asked to fill in. … One game led to another, and he soon established himself as a better umpire than ballplayer.”
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TRUMP JOB PERFORMANCE
Average approval: 46 percent
Average disapproval: 49.2 percent
Net Score: -3.2 points
Change from one week ago: ↓ 0.2 points
[Average includes: NBC News/WSJ: 46% approve - 51% disapprove; Gallup: 43% approve - 54% disapprove; Fox News: 49% approve - 49% disapprove; Monmouth University: 46% approve - 49% disapprove; CNBC: 46% approve - 43% disapprove.]
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DETAILS EMERGE ON BAILOUT
Bloomberg: “With the House poised to give final passage to a $484 billion package of new pandemic relief funds on Thursday, lawmakers and the Trump administration are already turning their focus on the next round of stimulus for the stalled U.S. economy. The legislation that the House will take up, which passed the Senate Tuesday, includes $320 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program, designed to help struggling small businesses keep their workers on the payroll. It’s widely regarded as an interim step as the coronavirus pandemic continues to cause death and economic havoc. ‘We’re ready to go on to the next bill,’ House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday morning on MSNBC. Both parties are looking at follow-up legislation that would be more comprehensive and costly. President Donald Trump, who met Tuesday with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, said aid to state and local governments would be part of a so-called phase four stimulus, as would money for road projects and expanding broadband service.”
McConnell pumps the brakes on next one - Politico: “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is drawing a line: There will be no more attempts at long-distance legislating on the coronavirus. In a telephone interview Tuesday after passage of a $484 billion coronavirus relief bill, the Senate majority leader made clear that the full Senate must be in session before Congress begins its fifth installment of responding to the pandemic. And he signaled he is growing weary of quickly shoveling billions of dollars out the door even as the economy continues to crater. The latest measure cleared the Senate by voice vote, but it was the product of days of fraught negotiations and false starts — and its success will be difficult to replicate as senators' frustrations over the extended recess pile up. McConnell said the Senate will proceed ‘cautiously’ to the next phase of coronavirus relief despite rapidly escalating demands for more aid from members of both parties. And he said that all 100 senators need to be around before Washington spends more money on an unprecedented economic rescue of workers and businesses caught in the virus’ fallout.”
Some Senate Republicans buck Trump on testing - WaPo: “Congressional Republicans have strongly backed President Trump’s efforts to respond to the deadly coronavirus pandemic and its crippling impact on the economy… But on the issue of testing, some Senate Republicans are looking for ways to get the federal government to play a bigger role despite Trump’s insistence it is an issue that governors should handle. Led by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Senate Republicans have largely envisioned the federal government taking a lead role in experimenting with diagnostic and serological tests for the coronavirus, even if some of the ideas ultimately fail — the thinking being that the government can take chances that perhaps the private sector cannot. ‘We’re encouraging some risk-taking here,’ Blunt said in an interview Tuesday. There is about $1 billion allocated for that effort in the a $484 billion economic stimulus agreement that cleared the Senate on Tuesday afternoon.”
Pelosi sidelines plan for proxy voting after GOP backlash - Fox News: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has temporarily sidelined a push to allow proxy voting in the House after Republicans slammed the Democrat-crafted plan -- which was designed to mitigate health risks during the coronavirus pandemic but would mark a significant change in how Congress does business. The plan had been slated for a vote Thursday. But Pelosi pulled the plug on a leadership call Wednesday, saying that she and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., would instead set up a group of bipartisan lawmakers to study remote voting and proxy voting as part of a way to reopen the House. … The change of plans happened after House Minority Whip Steve Scalise advised GOP members to vote ‘no’ on the proposal they've dubbed the ‘Pelosi Proxy Voting Scheme’ in the previously scheduled Thursday vote.”
CDC director warns of second wave - WaPo: “Even as states move ahead with plans to reopen their economies, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Tuesday that a second wave of the novel coronavirus will be far more dire because it is likely to coincide with the start of flu season. … CDC Director Robert Redfield said in an interview with The Washington Post. … ‘We’re going to have the flu epidemic and the coronavirus epidemic at the same time,’ he said. Having two simultaneous respiratory outbreaks would put unimaginable strain on the health-care system, he said. The first wave of covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, has already killed more than 42,000 people across the country. It has overwhelmed hospitals and revealed gaping shortages in test kits, ventilators and protective equipment for health-care workers.”
Barr: DOJ may side with citizens who sue states over 'onerous' coronavirus restrictions - Fox News: “Attorney General Bill Barr took a clear swipe Tuesday at state restrictions on citizens during the coronavirus pandemic, indicating not only that people could sue over measures that go too far but that the Justice Department could end up siding with them against the states. In [a radio interview], Barr specified some of the legal issues raised by state orders – likening some to ‘house arrest’ – and how they could lead the federal government to get involved. ‘Our federal constitutional rights don’t go away in an emergency. They constrain what the government can do,’ Barr said in the Tuesday interview. … The attorney general warned that while some state orders may still be necessary, others may go too far, given that states are seeing progress toward the goal of reducing the spread of the virus.”
CORONAVIRUS REMAKES 2020 MAP
Politico: “The economic and political impact of the coronavirus crisis is beginning to reverberate across the presidential battleground states, creating unforeseen red-state opportunities for Joe Biden but also offering promise for Donald Trump in several Democratic-leaning states where his prospects once seemed limited. Interviews with more than 30 political strategists, campaign advisers and officials in both parties paint a portrait of an expanded swing state electoral map, upended by the coronavirus pandemic and the economic dislocation it has caused. In the industrial Midwestern states that unexpectedly flipped to Trump in 2016, Democrats have more cause than ever to believe they can win back states such as Wisconsin and Michigan. In Arizona and Georgia, traditionally red states, party officials see the virus’ disproportionate effect on communities of color enhancing conditions for victory. At the same time, the widespread disruption has presented the president with an opportunity to improve his standing in competitive states such as Nevada and New Hampshire, where Trump was presumed to be at a slight disadvantage.”
It could delay 2020 results, too - Yahoo News: “Americans have come to expect that they will know who their next president is on election night, but that’s likely to change this fall. In fact, because of a huge increase in mail-in voting in states that are not used to it, the presidential election could take a week or more to be decided. Public officials and advocates are just now beginning to grapple with how to prepare themselves, and the country, for this unprecedented situation. ‘It’s a culture shift that’s going to be required,’ said Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, in an interview. … Gupta, who oversaw the Justice Department’s civil rights division from 2014 to 2017, said her organization — one of the oldest civil rights groups in the country — would work with other groups over the next several months to raise awareness and create an expectation among both voters and journalists that results should not be expected on election night.”
Biden campaign leaders clash on how to handle digital operations - Politico: “Joe Biden’s campaign leadership is clashing over the future of its digital operation — a rift that comes as campaigning has moved largely online and as Biden faces a yawning deficit against President Donald Trump’s massive digital operation. The disagreement among Biden’s top advisers centers on whether to hire most of its digital team internally or to rely on the firm Hawkfish, which is backed financially by billionaire Mike Bloomberg and ran the digital operation for his presidential campaign. The outcome of the internal battle will have far-reaching consequences for November as the coronavirus pandemic has made traditional campaigning — rallies with crowds and get-out-the-vote efforts like door knocking — all but impossible, while pushing digital campaigning to the forefront. Trump’s digital presence is significantly larger than Biden’s on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, a disadvantage that has made the discussions even more urgent.”
Biden to announce selection panel for veep by May 1 - WaPo: “Former vice president Joe Biden said he intends to name a panel of advisers by May 1 to help him select a running mate, offering the nugget early Wednesday via an appearance on ‘The Late Late Show with James Corden.’ Announcing the committee would officially launch Biden’s search for a vice presidential candidate, a process that has already informally begun with allies of contenders making their case to Biden’s advisers. Biden has said that he will select a woman for the role and that he expects to whittle down the list of contenders to two or three by July. … ‘The first, the most important quality is someone who — if I walked away immediately from the office for whatever reason — that they can be president,’ Biden said.”
TRUMP WANTS TO HIT THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL
Politico: “As his own health officials continue to warn against non-essential travel, Trump has privately urged aides over the past week to start adding official events back to his schedule, including photo ops and site visits that would allow him to ditch Washington for a few hours. The day trips would be similar to those Vice President Mike Pence has made visiting businesses during the viral pandemic, according to three people familiar with the planning. … The president has otherwise stayed within the executive complex for six weeks, an extraordinary stretch of confinement for a president who — even while stuck in Washington — loves to golf and visit his businesses. … The first step of the administration’s ‘Opening Up America Again’ strategy maintains restrictions on small gatherings if physical distancing measures cannot be adhered to and discourages Americans from pursuing non-essential travel, setting Trump on a potential collision course with swing-state governors who are reluctant to host him or presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden for official or political events in the near future.”
Trump campaign capitalizes on digital post-briefing shows - ABC News: “After nearly two hours last Wednesday, President Donald Trump walked away from the podium following another White House coronavirus briefing. Seconds later, his campaign’s digital operation went live with its online show. … It's a virtual hand-off between the president and his campaign that's become routine each night. As the perpetual daily press briefings continue, Trump's re-election team has found a way to capitalize on the attention generated online from the briefings by strategically airing nighty digital events that effectively serve as a post-game show for the president’s loyal base. … And like Trump’s now-daily press briefings, which have reached ‘Bachelor Finale’ ratings as the president often points out … the president's campaign’s daily shows also rake in big numbers thanks to the team’s large digital operation—averaging about 1 million views each between streams on platforms like Twitter, YouTube, Twitch, and MIXER, and Facebook, according to the campaign.”
Bernie bros fight to keep Sanders on New York ballot - HuffPo
McConnell says 'pandemic will not prevent' confirmation of judges - Fox News
AUDIBLE: SORRY BERNIE
“I think people are realizing, ‘My Lord. Look at what is possible. Look at the institutional changes we can make – without us becoming a ‘socialist country,’ or any of that malarkey – that we can make to provide the opportunities to change the institutional drawbacks ...’ from education, all the way through to all the other things we talked about.” – Former Vice President Joe Biden speaking to donors at a virtual fundraiser.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“I noticed in the ‘From the Bleachers’ section [Tuesday and Monday] that you recommended reducing the number of congressional staffers. Would you mind expanding on this a bit? My experience of Capitol Hill is that the personal staff of most members is made of up a rotating cast of twenty-somethings who are trying their best but just don't have the education or professional experience to adequately advise their members on the issues that come before them. Reducing a staff that is already stretched thin and ill-equipped to do their jobs seems to me like just another way for Congress to put itself at a disadvantage relative to the executive branch. But I am genuinely interested in hearing why I am wrong! I would also like to thank you and Brianna for the work you do every day. The Halftime Report has become, as your other readers have written, a highlight of my day (much like the I'll Tell You What podcast, which is a highlight of my week). I really appreciate your reporting and analysis. Keep up the great work. P.S. I finally ordered Every Man a King (from an independent bookstore with CARES Act money) and am looking forward to reading it!” – James Marsh, Falls Church, Va.
[Ed. note: I am not suggesting that we further abuse Hill rats, Mr. Marsh! The more important suggestion is to increase the size of the House of Representatives itself – something on the order of a 50 percent increase. We have not increased the number of seats in the House for nearly a century despite massive population growth. There’s no way a member of the House can really represent three-quarters of a million people, even with technological advantages. I envision a House whose members are less important as individuals, and I think eliminating some of the perks of office might help too. They can answer some of their own mail.]
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AP: “A miniature donkey named Mambo is getting some online love in North Carolina, where a farm is getting in on the idea of having animals spice up tedious virtual meetings during the coronavirus pandemic. Peace N Peas Farm will rent Mambo, the 8-year-old miniature donkey, and his friends to crash company conference calls, The Charlotte Observer reported. This camera crowding donkey is ‘like a pesky little brother’ that ‘doesn’t let anyone relax too long,’ Francie Dunlap, Mambo’s owner, said. Companies can choose other farm animals they want to invite as guests on their video calls. According to the farm animal’s meeting registration website, they include three horses, Heiren, Zeus and Eddie, along with some chickens and ducks. ‘I think it would get some laughs,’ Dunlap said. … Since she created the website on Saturday, Dunlap said she has also gotten requests from teachers who want the animals to crash their virtual classrooms.”
AND NOW A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, but for governments it’s not that easy. Once something is given — say, health insurance coverage to 20 million Americans — you take it away at your peril.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on March 16, 2017.
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.