Of sad news and silver linings

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On the roster: Of sad news and silver linings - Dire jobs report snaps 10-year win streak - Trump and Schumer bicker - Bernie set for a Badger beating The total package

Welcome to the third Friday in this, our compulsory national Lenten season. In light of the grim news both epidemiological and economic, let’s keep things a little lighter off the top today with some news nuggets. We hope you and the ones you love are sheltering in safety and comfort.
How does a libertarian-leaning state and its governor deal with coronavirus? Arizona and its Gov. Doug Ducey have gone slower and been less restrictive than many other states. While Florida has gotten lots of attention for its response, its counterpart in the West is getting a lot more attention. Politico’s Bryan Bender has a useful dispatch from Goldwater country where the fight over individual liberties and public health officials is getting intense.

We don’t know the truth of the matter, but the lawsuit from former staffers of erstwhile presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg about unprecedented but unkept promises of ongoing post-primary employment and misleading enticements. But we have been around politics long enough to know that every time a campaign says that it will be different than all the others, take a deep breath.

It is big news in Britain and its commonwealth that Queen Elizabeth II will deliver a special televised address on Sunday evening. Elizabeth has been on the British throne for 68 years and this will be just her fourth-ever such speech – previous broadcasts have covered the death of her mother in 2002, that of her former daughter in law in 1997 and the start of the Persian Gulf War in 1991. Unlike the United States where we have a unitary executive, Britain has a separate head of government (the currently quarantined premier Boris Johnson) and the head of state, Elizabeth. We know it’s a different kind of animal. But, American leaders could still learn something here. President Trump, even more than his loquacious, celebrity-loving predecessor, is always, always talking. While it may help him surf the daily news cycle it diminishes his voice for moments when he needs to be a leader for all Americans.

Here’s one silver lining you might have missed: With traffic so light, the operators of speed cameras and the cities that rely on the robotic revenue are feeling the pinch. According to the WSJ, the Australian firm Redflex, which administers speed traps, er, “traffic safety programs” across the U.S. is taking a beating because of the sharp decrease in citations.

How about a thought experiment: Which set of modern (i.e. post-19th century) American historical political leaders would you most like to see at the helm at this moment? Not even for a full term, but which trio of president, House speaker and Senate majority leader would have been best in our current predicament? Franklin RooseveltSam Rayburn and Alben BarkleyRonald ReaganTip O’Neill and Howard Baker? Maybe something less obvious like Dwight Eisenhower, Rayburn and Lyndon Johnson or even Calvin CoolidgeNicholas Longworth and Charles Curtis. Scroll through the lists a bit and give it some thought. We spend a lot of time focused on presidents, but at times of crisis, having the right team that can cooperate while still providing the necessary tension between the competing branches is key. Noodle around on it and on the traits that matter most to you and it may be revealing about what you value in government and leadership.

We had a kicker Thursday about how Texans are struggling to get sufficient toilet tissue partly because of state rules forbidding Spanish-only packaging on consumer products. Now this! Usually, Texas waits for football season for these kinds of wipeouts...

“Truth, no less than decency, requires that the event in every case [where federal and state authorities overlap] should be supposed to depend on the sentiments and sanction of their common constituents.” – James Madison, Federalist No. 46

AP: “[West Virginia native] Bill Withers, who wrote and sang a string of soulful songs in the 1970s that have stood the test of time, including ‘Lean on Me,’ ‘Lovely Day’ and ‘Ain’t No Sunshine,’ has died from heart complications, his family said in a statement to The Associated Press. He was 81. The three-time Grammy Award winner, who withdrew from making music in the mid-1980s, died on Monday in Los Angeles, the statement said. His death comes as the public has drawn inspiration from his music during the coronavirus pandemic, with health care workers, choirs, artists and more posting their own renditions on ‘Lean on Me’ to help get through the difficult times. … Withers’ songs … have powerful melodies and perfect grooves melded with a smooth voice that conveys honesty and complex emotions without vocal acrobatics. … ‘He’s the last African-American Everyman,’ musician and band leader Questlove told Rolling Stone in 2015. ‘Bill Withers is the closest thing black people have to a Bruce Springsteen.’”

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Biden: 1,217
Sanders: 914
[Ed. note: 1,991 delegates needed to win]

Average approval: 48.4 percent
Average disapproval: 47.8 percent
Net Score: 0.6 percent
Change from one week ago: ↑ 1.4 points
[Average includes: Grinnell/Selzer: 48% approve - 48% disapprove; ABC News/WaPo: 49% approve - 47% disapprove; Fox News: 48% approve - 51% disapprove; Gallup: 49% approve - 45% disapprove; Monmouth University: 48% approve - 48% disapprove.]

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WaPo: “The economy shed 701,000 jobs in March, driving the unemployment rate up to 4.4 percent, as measures to fight a worsening coronavirus pandemic began taking their toll on Americans’ livelihoods. The losses ended the economy’s 113-month streak of job growth, but represented only the first signs of the unprecedented damage being inflicted on the labor market. In the past two weeks, 10 million Americans have filed first-time claims for unemployment insurance, the result of mandatory social distancing that is keeping most people from working normally. Economists had expected a drop of about 100,000 jobs. But investors dismissed today’s Labor Department report as outdated, since it was based on a monthly survey that was completed on March 14 -- before many state governments ordered the economy to a halt in hopes of disrupting the spread of the sometimes-fatal respiratory illness.”

Trump admin lets more companies refuse paid leave for parents - NYT: “The Trump administration has substantially scaled back paid leave requirements for employers that were created by a new coronavirus relief law, effectively exempting many small businesses in a move that infuriated lawmakers who had fought to expand the benefit. In guidance issued on Wednesday, the Labor Department said that employers at companies with fewer than 50 workers had broad latitude to decline to offer the 12 weeks of paid leave that the law required for workers whose children were home from school or for child care because of the coronavirus pandemic. The legislation, which provides two weeks of paid sick leave and 12 weeks of paid family leave, and reimburses employers for it with tax credits, already excludes workers at companies with more than 500 employees. In all, more than 75 percent of American workers are at companies that qualify for exemptions from the law.”

White House infighting intensifies - NYT: “Because of his unique status, [Jared Kushner] he has made himself the point of contact for many agency officials who know that he can force action and issue decisions without going to the president. But while Mr. Kushner and his allies say that he has brought more order to the process, the government’s response remains fragmented and behind the curve. Some officials said Mr. Kushner had mainly added another layer of confusion to that response, while taking credit for changes already in progress and failing to deliver on promised improvements. He promoted a nationwide screening website and a widespread network of drive-through testing sites. Neither materialized. He claimed to have helped narrow the rift between his father-in-law and General Motors in a presidential blowup over ventilator production, one administration official said, but the White House is still struggling to procure enough ventilators and other medical equipment.”

Politico: “President Donald Trump and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer clashed all day Thursday in media appearances, tweets and dueling letters over the federal government’s response to the coronavirus crisis. The tension reached a climax when Trump sent a letter to the New York Democrat, defending his administration's handling of the coronavirus pandemic. But the letter also got personal, as the president accused the Democratic leader of getting caught up in the ‘impeachment hoax’ and being ‘missing in action, except when it comes to the ‘press.’’ … Schumer, who has been on a media blitz this week, appealed to Trump in a letter Thursday morning to establish a czar with a military background to oversee the production of medical equipment, including ventilators and personal protection equipment, under the Defense Production Act.”

Governors grouse - NYT: “[Gov. Larry Hogan] is also the head of the National Governors Association, charged with representing governors’ needs at the White House, where officials wish he would find it in his heart to say a few flattering words about Mr. Trump now and then. Instead he has bluntly demanded more aid from Washington, including more test kits and supplies and help shoring up state budgets. ‘We’re still not satisfied’ with the federal response to states’ needs, Mr. Hogan said this week. Mr. Hogan has also found himself the de facto leader of the response in the Washington, D.C., metro area, where the disease has begun its exponential march. The governor of Virginia and the mayor of Washington — a city where the death rate is well above the national average — instantly followed his order this week, grounding around 15 million residents.”

McCarthy bashes Pelosi oversight push - Fox News: “Republicans are hitting back at what they say is a ‘partisan’ move by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to form a new House committee on the administration's response to the coronavirus crisis — arguing that there are already numerous additional oversight measures in the $2 trillion stimulus bill passed by Congress last week. ‘This isn’t about oversight, it sounds like pure politics,’ House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said on ‘Fox & Friends’ Friday. ‘Let’s take care of the crisis at hand right now. We have five different oversights already looking at this and this is what she comes up with?’ … Pelosi announced Thursday that she is creating a House Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis. The committee will appoint both Democrats and Republicans, and will have subpoena power to seek information from the Trump administration.”

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: “Gov. Tony Evers is calling lawmakers in to stop people from going to the polls Tuesday to vote and instead mail ballots in an effort to prevent thousands of people from being exposed to coronavirus. Evers [today] called a special legislative session for Saturday to convert Tuesday’s election entirely to a mail-in election, a change he called for a week ago but state election officials said was too late to accomplish and Republican lawmakers rejected.  Lawmakers are unlikely to take the action Evers wants but haven’t yet said … whether they'll make the changes the governor is requesting. Both GOP leaders of the state Legislature have repeatedly said they consider in-person voting to be safe despite thousands of people expected at some polling locations as clerks consolidate amid a massive shortage of workers. … The move by Evers comes after U.S. District Judge William Conley ordered changes to Tuesday's election that makes it easier to vote by mail…”

Biden puts together veep search team - NYT: “[Biden] is said to view Mr. Obama’s vice-presidential selection process — the one that eventually selected him — as a model for his own. In 2008, Mr. Obama designated three prominent Democrats to lead an exhaustive search and vet his options: Mr. [EricHolder and Caroline Kennedy led the initiative, along with the longtime party power broker Jim Johnson, who ultimately withdrew from the process because of concerns about his personal finances. Mr. Biden said this week that he was looking at somewhere between six and 10 candidates, a number that has fluctuated. He has indicated that he would consider several former presidential rivals (Ms. [KamalaHarris, Ms. [AmyKlobuchar and Senator Elizabeth Warren) along with other Democrats, including governors. Among them is Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, who has been one of the most prominent governors confronting the coronavirus crisis at a moment when state leaders have become the faces of the response to the outbreak.”

Florida Republicans feel the bite from Scott’s unemployment system - Politico

Americans without direct deposit may not get checks until August - AP

Head of 3M warns Trump that export ban on masks will decrease domestic supply - CNBC

Team Trump prepares legal pushback on Dems’ voting rules effort - Politico

Pergram: Congress' potential challenges with virtual voting amid coronavirus pandemic - Fox News

U.S., Europe try phone-tracking strategies to combat coronavirus spread - WSJ

“Alabamans don’t like to be told what to do. They have shown that repeatedly. Washington told them to vote for Luther Strange over Roy Moore, they disobeyed. Washington told them to vote for Roy Moore over Doug Jones, they disobeyed. They are a hardheaded and independent lot.” – Gail Gitcho, a spokeswoman for Jeff Sessions’ Senate campaign, talking to the NYT.

This weekend Mr. Sunday will sit down with Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Bill Gates. Watch “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.” Check local listings for broadcast times in your area.

#mediabuzz - Host Howard Kurtz has the latest take on the week’s media coverage. Watch #mediabuzz Sundays at 11 a.m. ET.

“I read [Monday’s Time Out about then-House Speaker Tip O’Neill tearfully praying with Ronald Reagan at the president’s bedside after a 1981 assassination attempt] with more than a tinge of nostalgia and sadness that we have come so far since those days of disagreeing in a very agreeable way. Anyway, I got to thinking, IF that situation were to occur with the present occupants of those offices, which would be more unlikely: that it would or could occur, or that Trump would be able to recite the 23rd Psalm?” – Rob Lawrence, Bethlehem, Pa.

[Ed. note: I certainly think it could occur, but could you imagine the participants not talking about it or exploiting it for political image enhancement? That is that part of it that seems the most remarkable to me now.]

“I was surprised by your comment in the reply to Dr. Robertson [in Thursday’s Halftime Report]: ‘It’s unfair to blame presidents for the mistakes of individual agencies under their authority…’ The president is the CEO of the country. Other organizations properly hold CEOs accountable for the actions of their subordinates. The President selects the agency heads and has authority to set their agendas; therefore, he should be blameworthy for their actions or inactions. I believe Harry Truman would agree, but there may be other presidents who would not.” – Billy Atkins, Morgantown, W. Va.

[Ed. note: I think you may be snagging on the f word, Mr. Atkins. No, not that one! “Fair.” Just because things aren’t fair doesn’t make them wrong. There’s lots that we do that is practical, moral and just but that still is not fair. Many, or maybe even most of the hard choices in life come down to unfair circumstances. It’s not fair to personally blame a president for the unknown mistakes of bureaucrats nestled within the vast constellation of 2 million civilian employees. But as I said, it is “the price modern presidents pay for the privilege of their imperial power.” That’s part of why our modern federal government is such a mess. It’s a very personal twist for presidents on Barry Goldwater’s old line:  If your government is big enough to give you everything you want, it is big enough to take away from you everything you have.”]

“Wondering about last day for filing to be president. States have various requirements about filing and if Biden, for instance, became physically unable to continue his run how would the D’s be able to advance another candidate?” – Jim LedbetterSeattle

[Ed. note: I’m not sure what all the delayed primaries have done to filing requirements, but it is still safe to say that it is way too late for anyone else to seek to win the Democratic nomination on the first ballot. Even if you could break the rules and get on the ballot in all the remaining states, nearly 60 percent of the delegates have already been allocated. There aren’t enough outstanding to reach the 1,991 threshold. But that doesn’t leave the parties without options. The Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee get to set the rules for how, when and where their nominating conventions are convened. Then the delegates to those conventions get to set the rules for how the convention will operate. If either of the parties’ presumptive nominees became unable to accept the nomination, delegates would have to figure out the rules of the new game. Would they unbind all the delegates and have a good old-fashioned contested convention? It would be a sight to see, I’m sure!]

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The [St. Joseph, Mich.] Herald-Palladium: “When Amy Simonson walks down the aisle Saturday to marry the love of her life, the crowd looking on won’t be the recognizable faces of loved ones. ‘…I wanted to do something so she wouldn’t walk down the aisle to an empty church,’ her fiancé [Dan Stuglik] said. That’s where Menasha Packaging Co. in Coloma comes in. Stuglik, a Coloma Township police officer, stopped by the factory one day to see about buying cardboard to make cardboard cutouts to fill the pews. … The more than 100 cutouts that Menasha donated to the couple run the gamut. There are tall ones, short ones, young and old ones, and cutouts with long hair, short hair or ponytails. … They acknowledge that … only sharing the day with their parents, their pastor, two groomsman and two bridesmaids has been a painful process. ‘But I think we both have peace now, because it’s stripped down to what it should be, which is us and God, getting married,’ Stuglik said.”

“Under the big gray cloud, amid the general gloom, allow me to offer a ray of sunshine. The last two months have brought a pleasant surprise: Turns out the much feared, much predicted withering of our democratic institutions has been grossly exaggerated. The system lives.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on March 23, 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.