Trump trapped

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On the roster: Trump trapped - Senate chokes on virus package, tempers flare - Paul bashed for ignoring warnings - Biden consults Obama on Veep shortlist - Thank you, Ms. Gonzalez 

Donald Trump
 is in a pickle.

The thing that the president seems to desire most of all – a rip-roaring economic comeback after a steep, brief downturn – appears to be at odds with what his political base wants – to quickly make the confines of our national quarantine less restrictive.

Trump wants, as he has said many times, the whole coronavirus question to blow away on a warm summer breeze. “It’s gonna be a victory that, in my opinion, will happen much sooner than originally expected,” Trump said in his daily virus announcements on Sunday.

What Team Trump is envisioning is the kind of snap-back on contagion we’re seeing in China, South Korea and Taiwan. In those places, there’s every reason to believe that economic activity will be back to normal or near normal in a matter of weeks.

That would mean in an American context emerging from the coronacloud by this summer, with an economic rebound teed up for the peak of the fall campaign season. Trump will be defeated or returned to office depending on how well he navigates this crisis, and that would be his best-case scenario.

But the way those authoritarian cultures are achieving their goals depends on some very draconian measures. In South Korea, privacy has been obliterated as citizens’ smartphones become lojacks for health officials and devices for publicly shaming violators. In China, drones patrol the streets of affected areas, descending on those violating shelter-in-place rules. In Taiwan, the government took charge of media coverage and requires hourly public health instructions to be broadcast.

None of that is going to happen in the United States, but public health officials here are looking for the closest approximations they can muster. The thinking is: Hit it hard now and avoid both a dangerous surge at hospitals and sustained economic damage.

Much discussed in this vein is a Friday NYT op-ed from Dr. David Katz, a popular media voice on nutrition and obesity. 

His argument goes like this: We missed our chance to be proactive when nations like Singapore did, but as we finally do get widespread testing and treatment protocols on line, we can learn from their methods and move rapidly toward a more targeted approach based on protecting the most vulnerable and isolating sick people.

With the public now well-aware of the dangers, we can start resuming normal activities much sooner than the worst-case scenarios that many in Europe are now enduring. If employers, organizations and individuals follow the rules and governments take a firm hand on quarantines, a pretty rapid turnaround might be possible.

But we’re not there yet. Not only do we not yet have the capacity for the widespread testing required or the masks and sanitizing agents needed, it would require unifying government response at the federal, state and local level. A new “surgical” approach doesn’t work if some of the largest states aren’t on board. Turning that ship would require time and a new spirit of cooperation.

NYT columnist Tom Friedman interviewed Katz and asked him how he would navigate that pivot. Katz’s answer was “a two-week isolation strategy.” Not the one we’re in, but another fortnight, this time with uniform enforcement. Katz says this “reboot” would be more palatable because there would be light at the end of the tunnel knowing that a few weeks from now, things will start to get back to normal. 

That, however, ignores the political realities playing out in Washington and across the country.

Trump had last week already given back his 5-point post-impeachment bump in his Gallup job-approval rating. Even given the dearth of reliable polling in the time of quarantine, there’s no reason to think that there’s been any softening of his floor. Trump seems for now to be back where he has spent most of his presidency: Hovering around 40 percent.

He’s essentially back where he was, which is to say on the low side but with the astonishingly durable support of the Republican base.

And what the Republican base these days is not feeling is three weeks of government-ordered lockdown and cessation of normal business activities.

Like Sen. Rand Paul, who now finds himself infected, many conservatives, even doctors, were already not inclined to follow government suggestions about where to go, with whom to have lunch, etc.

The churches that held services this Sunday in defiance of health officials’ orders will be joined by others this week. Across rural and small-town America, especially with older citizens – Red America – resistance will increase.

And it’s not just about orneriness. For many small business owners – again, heavily skewing Republican – three weeks of a shutdown would be an economic death sentence. Without the deep pockets and bailouts from which big companies benefit, they are facing an extinction-level event. They may prefer to face authorities than bankruptcy. 

Trump obviously senses the growing backlash on the right. His Sunday night tweet, “WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF. AT THE END OF THE 15 DAY PERIOD, WE WILL MAKE A DECISION AS TO WHICH WAY WE WANT TO GO!”

Trump can’t win re-election with the economy a wreck and the virus uncontrolled. But neither can he win without his base, a group far more inclined to take chances on the pandemic than the overwhelmingly Democratic residents of major cities and the swing voters of the suburbs who are most at risk.

To get where he wants to go Trump would need the cooperation of red states and blue states to really bite the bullet now and to do so at the cost of prolonged social and economic disruption.

Right now, he looks like he’s stuck between the two.

“The prudent inquiry, in all cases, ought surely to be, not so much FROM WHOM the advice comes, as whether the advice be GOOD.” – James Madison, Federalist No. 40

The Atlantic’s Sophie Gilbert discusses the psychology behind comfort TV: “Comfort TV, at this point, is such a well-worn idea that it’s spawned countless lists over the past few weeks, all guiding viewers toward low-investment, high-reward shows such as Schitt’s CreekParks and Recreation, and Bones. … This isn’t as strange as it might seem: People cope with trauma and anxiety in very different ways, which makes the shows they turn to for comfort equally incongruous and dependent on the emotional response they’re hoping to provoke. … For Elizabeth Cohen, an associate professor specializing in media psychology at [West Virginia University], her favorite rewatch is Black Mirror, while her husband prefers to relax with episodes of The Great British Baking Show. … The most obvious balm for troubled souls is television where nothing bad really happens and everything will almost certainly be okay… A different kind of comfort comes from watching reruns of shows that you’ve already seen over and over: The OfficeFriendsCheers. It’s ‘definitely nostalgia,’ Cohen said—watching to try to return, momentarily, to a different time, or a moment when everything seemed easier.”

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Biden: 1,215
Sanders: 909
[Ed. note: 1,991 delegates needed to win]

Average approval: 43.8 percent
Average disapproval: 51.8 percent
Net Score: -8 percent
Change from one week ago: ↑ 0.6 points
[Average includes: NPR/PBS News/Marist: 43% approve - 50% disapprove; NBC News/WSJ: 46% approve - 51% disapprove; Gallup: 44% approve - 52% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 41% approve - 54% disapprove; CNN: 45% approve - 52% disapprove.]

Fox News: “Tensions flared on the Senate floor Monday as lawmakers viscerally clashed on camera over phase three of a coronavirus response package, with Democrats blocking Republican efforts to advance the massive stimulus bill for the second day in a row. Leaving the legislation in limbo once more, the Senate stalled over the package Monday afternoon on a 49-46 vote. It needed 60 votes to advance. Democrats argued the more-than $1 trillion package did too much for large corporations and not enough for workers, but Republicans accused them of playing politics and using the crisis as leverage to try and jam through unrelated political ‘wish list’ items concerning climate change and more. ‘The country is burning, and your side wants to play political games,’ Senate Majority Whip John Thune, R-S.D., said shortly before the vote. … Thune slammed Democrats—specifically moderate Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who just moments earlier said the bill was ‘weighted toward the Wall Street corporation side.’”

Details of the package - USA Today: “Senate Republicans released a $1-trillion economic stimulus plan last Thursday, which details a proposal to distribute a $1,200 payment for each individual or $2,400 for joint returns. Democrats blocked the bill earlier Sunday evening, saying it was too generous to big corporations and too stingy for working families. Among the requirements Senate Democrats are wanting to include to pass the bill are: Requiring President Donald Trump to invoke the Defense Production Act to order private companies to manufacture respirators, masks and other needed equipment. Providing more workers guaranteed paid family and medical leave. Using nearly $40 billion to help states stabilize school funding and help colleges continue operating during the crisis. Giving states billions in grant funding to help hold elections, including expanding early, absentee and mail voting. … Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer [said] on Monday … ‘We have the obligation to get the details right.’”

Republicans say Dems blocking over ‘ideological wish list’ - Fox News: “Republicans are accusing Democrats of using the coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to push unrelated political agendas, as the two sides failed to reach an agreement Sunday night to advance legislation that would provide relief to American businesses and families struggling as a result of the outbreak. … But issues having nothing to do with coronavirus have become impediments to the relief package, according to a senior Republican aide. ‘As Leader Schumer continues to hold up the desperately-needed relief package, the last-minute list of demands from Pelosi’s and Schumer’s ideological wish list are coming into focus,’ the aide said. These include new collective bargaining powers for unions, higher fuel emissions standards for airlines, and expanded wind and solar tax credits.”

Pergram: How it fell apart - Fox News: “‘Monday’ was supposed to be the deadline for the Senate to act on the third legislative phase of the coronavirus response. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) set up a process late last week where the Senate would take a procedural vote Sunday to begin debate on a ‘shell’ of a bill. Once there was a deal, McConnell would insert the coronavirus package into the parliamentary empty box. The hope was that the Senate could get 60 yeas to open debate on the coronavirus measure Sunday – then speed up the process and pass the bill Monday. Then the House would have to move to align with the Senate sometime in the near future. That all melted down Sunday night. Republicans were always going to need buy-in by Senate Democrats to start debate on the legislation. As we always say on Capitol Hill, it’s about the math, it’s about the math, it’s about the math. The current Senate breakdown is 53 Republicans and 47 senators who caucus with the Democrats. The procedural vote required 60 yeas to overcome a filibuster.”

NYT: “[Sen. Rand Paul] had been informed last weekend that he had attended a fund-raiser in Kentucky with two individuals who later tested positive for Covid-19, a warning that sent a handful of other prominent elected officials into self-quarantine out of caution. Not Mr. Paul. He pressed on with his Washington schedule anyway. On Wednesday afternoon, he spoke and voted on the Senate floor. He dined at the Republicans’ closed luncheon on Thursday and on Friday, sitting with fellow senators. … [Senator Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., wrote on Twitter,] ‘This, America, is absolutely irresponsible.’ … Both of Utah’s Republican senators, Mitt Romney and Mike Lee, said Sunday afternoon that they would voluntarily quarantine themselves after close contact with Mr. Paul in recent days.”

Senators call for remote voting - Roll Call: “Bipartisan efforts to encourage the Senate to adopt procedures for remote voting are gaining steam, with at least two more Republicans speaking out for the need to make operational changes in the face of the coronavirus crisis and one day after a Senate colleague revealed he tested positive for the virus. Republican Sens. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina endorsed the Senate moving to remote voting during the growing COVID-19 pandemic. They join an effort led by Illinois Democrat Richard J. Durbin and Ohio Republican Rob Portman, who are calling for limited-time authority for remote voting during emergency situations. ‘I totally support the idea of remote voting so the Senate can continue to operate during this crisis,’ Graham tweeted.”

Amy Klobuchar’s husband tests positive - Fox News: “Sen. Amy Klobuchar announced Monday that her husband has tested positive for coronavirus and that he is currently being treated in a Virginia hospital. Klobuchar, D-Minn., a former Democratic presidential hopeful, said her husband received the results of his COVID-19 test on Monday morning. ‘While I cannot see him and he is of course cut off from all visitors, our daughter Abigail and I are constantly calling and texting and emailing,’ Klobuchar said in a statement. ‘We love him very much and pray for his recovery.’ Klobuchar said that her husband is ‘exhausted and sick but a very strong and resilient person.’ Klobuchar described her husband’s symptoms, saying he ‘kept having a temperature and a bad, bad, cough.’”

Politico: “Joe Biden has a shortlist of more than six women to be his running mate and will start the vetting process ‘in a matter of weeks,’ he said Sunday during a call with donors. Biden, who indicated he had consulted with his former boss, President Barack Obama, didn’t mention any names. But he said nothing to dispel the speculation that he’s considering the three senators who ran against him for president — Kamala HarrisAmy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren. ‘Background checks matter. They have to be prepared,’ Biden said, adding that he wants to ensure that ‘there’s not going to be any snafu’ with his selection. ‘The most important thing, and I've actually talked to Barack about this — the most important thing is that there has to be someone who, the day after they’re picked, is prepared to be president of the United States of America if something happened,’ said Biden, who is 77. Biden said he needs ‘someone who is comfortable with where I am’ on policy.”

How Bernie blew it - NYT: “But interviews with more than three dozen [Sen. Bernie Sanders] aides, elected officials, activists and other people who worked with his campaign revealed a more extensive picture of his reversal of political fortune. Though Mr. Sanders climbed to a position of seeming dominance by mid-February, he and his inner circle also made a series of fateful decisions that left him ill positioned to win over skeptical Democrats — and sorely vulnerable to an opponent with Mr. Biden’s strengths. Mr. Sanders proved unable to expand his base well beyond the left or to win over African-Americans in meaningful numbers. He failed to heed warnings from traditional party leaders, and even from within his campaign, about the need to modulate his message and unify Democrats. He allowed internal arguments to fester within his campaign, an ungainly operation that fragmented into factions beneath the only two real decision makers — Mr. Sanders and his wife, Jane. Though outwardly amiable, Mr. Sanders’s inner circle fractured between some long-serving counselors and relative newcomers, like Faiz Shakir, his campaign manager.”

Pressures mount on DNC - WSJ: “When the Democratic National Committee decided to move its convention up to mid-July—roughly two weeks earlier than in 2016—it was billed as a way to give the party’s nominee more time to focus on President Trump and spend general election dollars earlier. The coronavirus pandemic is making that move seem riskier in retrospect, as Democrats face the possibility that much of the nation will be hunkered down for weeks or months to come.”

Trump approves National Guard requests in New York, California and Washington state - NBC News

“Wash your hands like you got done eating a pile of Maryland crabs and you need to take your contacts out.” – Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md., per CNN.

“What are your thoughts about people referring to the current situation as the ‘new normal?’ This term really, really grates on me. It should never be normal for our government to tell us when we can and cannot leave our homes and who can leave. This is a temporary extraordinary ABNORMAL situation that we have to get through.  We should never normalize this sort of government power.” – Steve Arthur, Arlington, Va.

[Ed. note: Mr. Arthur, did you ever hear the one about the guy who goes to the doctor and says “Doctor, it hurts every time I go like this,” and raises both of his hands over his head? The doctor says “Well, don’t do that.” I don’t know how much of what kinds of news and social media you’re consuming on a given day, but I do know that with so much time on their hands and so few diversions, many Americans are over-indulging. You are certainly right that the extraordinary powers currently being asserted by leaders from the president down to city councils and county commissions are not sustainable, and some are probably unconstitutional. By the time this is all done, we will have new laws, new precedents and, yes, new norms. Those are matters of great importance. But just make sure you’re not letting the spouting of your fellow citizens “really, really grate” on you. Social media and 24-hour news have put us in greater proximity to human ignorance on a large scale than ever in our society’s history. These can be wonderful tools, but they can also become intellectual and emotional tar pits in which we can become mired. Some of us even find ourselves out there looking for trouble, as it were. Outrage is a powerful emotion and it can become habit forming. Save your outrage for things that matter and not just letting knuckleheads on the internet mess up your day.] 

“We Michiganders appreciate the Boston Cooler reference [in Friday’s Halftime Report]! There is nothing better than Vernors Ginger Ale and Ice Cream, especially from Halo Burger in Flint. A Boston Cooler is what the world needs right now as we sit in our homes and wonder what is going to become of our future.” – Patrick Wittbrodt II, Brighton, Mich.

[Ed. note: And don’t you know that only a Vernors will really do! I was introduced to the wonders of the Boston cooler by Bill Hogan, the wisest man in Wheeling, W.Va. He got it from an aunt 80 years ago who I believe was from Boston. I had no idea that there was a Michigan constituency! But what I was able to give Bill was the superiority of the tangy, almost spicy Vernors in place of paler imitations. But even a Canada Dry Boston cooler would be preferable to the far more pedestrian root beer float. Just make sure you use super-premium vanilla ice cream -- above 14 percent milkfat -- if you want to maximize the quality of the froth, which we all know is the best part of all.]

“‘What It Takes’ by Richard Ben Cramer has always been my go-to choice for a non-fiction political book.” – Shayne SmithLittle Rock, Ark.

[Ed. note: It is a fantastic book, no doubt! We’ll have more recommendations this week, but I’m also partial to “The Boys on the Bus” (1973) by Timothy Crouse, “What I Saw at the Revolution” (1990) by Peggy Noonan and “The Making of the President 1960” by Theodore White.]

“Loved your book suggestions! I have another two for you – ‘The Art of Grace – on Moving Well Through Life’ – by Sarah Kaufman, and ‘Geography of Genius’ – by Eric Weiner. I think we could all benefit, and use, a little more grace in our dealings with each other. The second book is amazing as it documents why specific locations, at specific points in time, thrived.  What is one of the common denominators? You guessed it – adversity.” – Dani Marquardt, Carol Stream, Ill.

[Ed. note: I read and enjoyed Mr. Weiner’s book! It is a bit of a romp! And it’s fun to imagine what it would have been like to have been, as they say, present at the creation. And as he reminds us, the people living in places where human potential finds new flowering often don’t know it at the time. You and I may be living there now. And that is the best part about the human experience. While we fear the unknown, it is the surprises that make life worth living. And while Ms. Kaufman’s book is aimed at female readers, all of us would benefit by remembering that in our interactions with each other, graciousness as an expression of mercy and compassion is always welcome.] 

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KTSM: “As the week that would have been most Borderland [Texas] students’ Spring Break comes to a close, many teachers are wondering what’s next for their students and left missing their daily interactions. It was that overwhelming feeling of sadness that led 5th-grade Horizon Heights teacher Leslie Gonzalez to come up with a plan to reconnect with her students in person, while still practicing social distancing. … Instead of calling each of her students as she initially intended, [Bonnie Soria Najera] suggested they drive-by each of the students’ homes with a poster board. Saturday, Najera drove Ms. Gonzalez to each of the 25 student’s houses while Gonzalez called the parents on the phone and asked them to send their kids to the front porch. Armed with a poster board that read ‘Hi!! I miss you so so much! Can’t wait to see you! (online),’ Gonzalez and Najera were able to talk to each student and their parent from a safe distance.”

“In speed (‘blitz’) chess, you’ve got five or 10 minutes to play your entire game. Some Mondays we get in a dozen games each. No time to recriminate, let alone ruminate.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on Dec. 27, 2002. 

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.