Archives for category: Politics

Peter Goodman is a long-time observer of education politics in New York State and New York City.

In this post, he asks a reasonable question: Why, at a time of fiscal stringency and uncertainty, is the Board of Regents of New York State rubber-stamping the expansion of charter schools?

Charter schools, as he shows, cherry-pick their students to inflate their test scores. Despite state law, their doors are not open to all.

He writes:

If you look at charter school data virtually every charter school enrolls fewer than the “comparable” percentages required in the law. The reason is abundantly clear, students with disabilities and English language learners frequently have lower standardized test scores, impact the charter renewal process and are more costly to educate, i.e., lower class size = more teachers.

The Buffalo charter was out of compliance with state law. Why did the Board of Regents approve a five-year renewal of a charter in Buffalo when the Regent from Buffalo proposed a three-year renewal? Buffalo schools face a large deficit, but its charters are on track to take $108 million out of the city’s public budget.

Why did the Board of Regents approve the renewal of a low-performing charter school in the Bronx?

Goodman writes:

Later in the [Regents’] meeting three New York City charter schools were on the agenda, one of the schools wanted to add high school grades; although there is a moratorium on the creation of new charter schools State Ed staff interpreted the law as allowing grade expansion, in my opinion, an attempt to circumvent the law and should have not been allowed by the state.

The math scores in the school were in the “far below standard” category, ninety percent of teachers were “teaching out of their certification area,” the state average is eleven percent and the register in the sixth, seventh and eighth grade, was sharply reduced, from 71 (6th grade), to 46 (7th grade) and 29 (8th grade): what happened to the kids? In addition the school SWD and ELL students are far below the district averages.

Why did the NYC Department of Education approve the application? Why did the SED approve the application?

The school has a lobbyist who was a college roommate of Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. I’m sure that’s only a coincidence. btw, who paid the lobbyist?

In spite of objections from some Regents members the SED lawyer bundled all three schools together instead of decoupling and voting separately.

Regent Cashin made a motion: a moratorium on approval of new charters and the grade expansion of existing charter schools for the remainder of the COVID emergency. She explained that with sharp cuts in district budgets, with districts facing layoffs and disruptions, to transfer money from public schools budgets to charter school budgets was unconscionable. The SED lawyer ruled her motion was “out of order.”

Any member of the Board can make a motion at any time. The Board should vote on whether to place the motion on the agenda. The Board “owns” the motion, not the lawyer, who is not a Board member.

If the lawyer meant the motion was not “germane” he was still wrong. If he was serving as a parliamentarian he gives advice to the chair, he does not participate in the debate, or make determinate decisions.

The whole business had what Goodman called “a noxious aroma,” a polite way of saying that the Regents’ rush to approve charters of dubious quality in the midst of a fiscal crisis stinks to high heaven.

Why incentivize privately run charters to divert funding and the students of their choice from the public schools.

Why are the Regents betraying the state’s public schools?

That noxious aroma is the smell that is released when politics seeps into decisions about school funding. Someone’s friends are being taken care of, at the expense of the public schools.

Andrea Gabor is a friend and a wise writer about education.

She sent the following appeal:

Dear Friends,

First and foremost, I hope this note finds you safe and healthy.

As many of you know, I was supposed to lead another student, political-reporting trip this spring, this time to the Texas border; Covid19 foiled our travel plans and, instead, my students produced a fabulous pack of articles on life and politics on the Texas border amid the pandemic, reporting remotely from NYC. (I’ve included a link below.) Among other things, my students found that gerrymandering and voter suppression have turned Texas into one of the nation’s leading “no-vote” states.

During this time of national crisis, changing leadership in Washington alone is not enough. Fixing our political system requires change at every level of government, especially state government. Given what I learned about Texas as a result of my students’ reporting, I’ve decided to support the vigorous grassroots efforts to flip the Texas State House and hope you will help.

Please join me in supporting Elizabeth Beck for Texas State House District 97.

Elizabeth is a mother, veteran, and lawyer, who is running to represent Tarrant County, near Fort Worth. Her roots in the area go all the way to elementary school. She remains an active member of the local community, serving on boards for Congregation Beth-El and Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas Fort Worth. She works to get women elected across the state through organizations like Annie’s List, and regularly lends her time to voter protection efforts for local, state, and national elections.

Join us and Elizabeth via Zoom on Wednesday, June 24, from 5:30 to 6:30 PM (EDT)

Elizabeth will be joined by two exciting special guests to share what is at stake in these elections:
· Beto O’Rourke, former United States Representative (TX-16)
· Rep. Ana-Maria Ramos, NY4US alum and Member of the Texas House of Representatives (TX-102)

Click here to donate and RSVP. The first $15,000 we raise will be matched by supporters on the ground in Fort Worth! Those who donate will receive a link to join the video call.

Even if you cannot attend, please consider donating to help support Elizabeth and give her the resources she needs to spread her message and reach voters.

FYI, here’s a link to my students’ fabulous Border package: https://blogs.baruch.cuny.edu/border2020/

Thanks,

Andrea

Andrea Gabor
Bloomberg Chair of Business Journalism
Baruch College/CUNY
After the Education Wars (The New Press, June 2018)
http://www.andreagabor.com
917 685 7666

Every candidate hopes to win the endorsement of the New York Times.

The Times just published its Congressional endorsements in New York City, and the big news is that it endorsed educator Jamaal Bowman, a steadfast champion of equity, social justice, and public schools over the 16-term incumbent. Jamaal will be a breath of fresh air if he is elected, and one of the very few members of Congress who is a real educator. His voice in needed in D.C.

The Times editorial board wrote:

At a time when millions of voices are calling out for peaceful change, New Yorkers can make an immediate difference with this year’s primary elections. In-person voting begins June 13 and ends June 23; voting by absentee ballot has already begun. The nation badly needs new faces, new energy, new talent and new ideas.

This is not to say that every incumbent needs to be retired. Congressman Jerry Nadler (District 10, parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn) and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (District 12, the East Side of Manhattan, parts of Queens and northern Brooklyn) have shown their commitment to their districts time and again and should be returned to Congress. But in other places, where there is no incumbent or the current representative has lost the fire to fight for his or her constituents at home and in Washington, we offer these choices for Democratic House primaries, where victory means almost-certain election in the New York City region.

DISTRICT 15 (South Bronx): In a competitive race to replace the departing Congressman Jose Serrano, voters have a choice between Ritchie Torres, an unusually effective member of the New York City Council, and the Rev. Rubén Díaz Sr., a candidate opposed to equal rights for women and gay people, who doesn’t belong in today’s Democratic Party. Though the race is filled with other impressive candidates who would very likely make excellent members of Congress, Mr. Torres appears the best positioned to beat Mr. Díaz, an urgent task.

DISTRICT 9 (Park Slope, Crown Heights, Prospect Heights, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Flatbush, Midwood, Sheepshead Bay and more): For nearly 14 years, Congresswoman Yvette Clarke has represented this large, vibrant area of Brooklyn. In 2018, we supported Adem Bunkeddeko, a talented challenger with ambitious plans for affordable housing who is back for a second try. This time, Isiah James, a promising young Army combat veteran and democratic socialist who has also promised to focus on housing, is in the race, too, though he has struggled with fund-raising. Another candidate, New York City Council member Chaim Deutsch, hasn’t shown up for the debates and is instead vying for votes with a campaign of fearmongering.

In 2018, Ms. Clarke barely won the primary race against Mr. Bunkeddeko, with 53 percent of the vote. In her current term, she has taken a more active role in her district, a welcome change.

But once again, Mr. Bunkeddeko represents the best chance at getting a more vibrant voice for the district. Mr. Bunkeddeko, 32, grew up in Queens and is focused on securing federal dollars for public and affordable housing. He also wants to create a federal program that would help moderate- and lower-income New Yorkers become homeowners, exactly the vision needed in the district and in Congress. As he put it, housing needs were “a five-alarm fire” even before the job losses of the coronavirus pandemic. He has also supported a public option for Medicare as a way to move toward Medicare for all.

His life story is inspiring. Mr. Bunkeddeko is the son of refugees from Uganda who has earned an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School. He has experience in government working for the Empire State Development Corporation, the state entity that helps drive economic investment into New York. He deserves the support of voters in the Ninth District.

DISTRICT 14 (eastern Bronx and north-central Queens): Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez needs no introduction. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez may be the most talented young politician in the country. In her first term, she helped build a national progressive movement, becoming a leading voice on climate change, income inequality and racist policing. Her masterly questioning of the former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen before the House Oversight and Reform Committee last year helped reveal the extent of Mr. Trump’s misconduct.

If, as we hope, she wins a second term, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez should devote energy and resources to constituent services, one area where her community is hungry for more of her attention. Her competitors in this year’s primary, including Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, a former Republican and CNBC journalist who says she wants to focus on jobs, have tried to capitalize on Mr. Ocasio-Cortez’s national, rather than local, focus.

Ms. Ocasio Cortez’s shortcomings as a community representative, which can be remedied if she puts her mind to it, are not reason enough to deny re-election to someone who has been such a determined champion of vulnerable people everywhere.

Image
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez questioning Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, at a House Financial Services Committee hearing last fall.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez questioning Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, at a House Financial Services Committee hearing last fall.Credit…Pete Marovich for The New York Times
DISTRICT 16 (northern parts of the Bronx and southern half of Westchester County, including Mt. Vernon, Yonkers, New Rochelle and Rye): The current representative — Eliot Engel — has been in Congress since 1989, and his connections to the district seem to have frayed.

He was criticized for not returning home even as the coronavirus raged through communities he represents, particularly New Rochelle. When he did return for this race, he was caught on a hot mic pushing for a chance to speak during a protest rally, saying, “If I didn’t have a primary, I wouldn’t care.”

His main challenger is Jamaal Bowman, an educator for more than 20 years and a fierce advocate for public schools. Mr. Bowman helped found a public middle school in the Bronx, the Cornerstone Academy for Social Action, and promises to work for all of the district, including sections he says have been neglected during Mr. Engel’s time in Congress.

Mr. Bowman says he wants to see the United States adopt a kind of Marshall Plan for climate change, jobs, housing and education. “We need political imagination,” he said. In a district that needs new energy, Mr. Bowman will bring it.

DISTRICT 17 (Rockland and northwestern Westchester Counties): The retirement of Nita Lowey after 31 years in office has made for quite a race, with seven contenders fighting it out.

The best candidate to replace her is Mondaire Jones, an official in the Department of Justice in the Obama administration and a former lawyer in the Westchester County Law Department.

For Mr. Jones, policy is personal. The child of a single mother who relied on food stamps and lived in Section 8 housing, he eventually graduated from Stanford University and Harvard Law School, and he supports universal child care and tuition-free college. Mr. Jones is a candidate who can finally bring representation to every part of this diverse district, which spans Rockland and Westchester Counties, and includes great wealth as well as pockets of deep poverty.

Evelyn Farkas, another candidate in the race, has significant support from the Democratic establishment, including former Secretary of State John Kerry, former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Representative Tom Malinowski and Emily’s List. A former deputy assistant secretary of defense specializing in Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, Ms. Farkas helped create a strategy to protect Ukraine from Russian military intervention and was among the first to warn about Russian aid to Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Also among the leading candidates is State Senator David Carlucci, who is backed by powerful unions like Teamsters Local 445, a union that represents bus drivers, construction workers, warehouse workers and more. Mr. Carlucci promises to expand tenant protection and create mixed-use housing across the district. He was part of a breakaway group of Democrats in the New York Senate who worked with the Republicans who controlled the chamber at the time. Though he argues that his defection was meant to aid a district moving rapidly from rural to urban, Mr. Carlucci was also a great help to Republicans in blocking Democratic reforms.

Assemblyman David Buchwald, who represents part of the Congressional district, has strong local support and some credibility fighting corruption in Albany. His vote against a landmark housing bill last year that restored sorely needed protections for renters in New York City and elsewhere is, however, disqualifying.

Allison Fine, a former chair of NARAL-Pro-Choice America who calls herself an “unapologetic feminist,” argues that it’s time for someone “outside the system to bring in new ideas and energy.”

Asha Castleberry-Hernandez is a major in the Army Reserves, a former State Department adviser and a lecturer in foreign policy and global security. Though she is not our choice for this seat this year, Ms. Castleberry-Hernandez has the kind of talent that deserves to be encouraged.

Voters in the 17th District are fortunate to have so many talented people vying to represent them in Washington. Mondaire Jones has earned our endorsement as the most promising and the most prepared.

I will vote for Joe Biden. I will vote for him with enthusiasm. The alternative is almost too horrible to contemplate.

Donald Trump is a wannabe fascist. Under Mitch McConnell’s direction (or control), Trump is filling the federal judiciary with rightwing extremists and incompetents. Trump is vicious. He has not an ounce of empathy. He is incompetent, and he has surrounded himself with incompetent lackeys, who are determined to dismantle the federal government and break every international institution created since 1945 to assure mutual cooperation. Given another four years, he will utterly destroy whatever is left of our government, ideals, our hopes for a better future, our belief in progress.

Joe Biden didn’t win the nomination because the Democratic establishment backed him. In fact, Biden was written off by the Democratic establishment after his mediocre performance in the early primary states. His campaign was running low on money. He did not have campaign offices in most states. His campaign hit the skids.

But then came South Carolina, where African American voters united behind him and made him the leader of the pack. Most Democrats want to rally around a candidate, and he was the one. His political revival was nothing short of amazing. His campaign was near dead, and now he is the presumptive party nominee.

Bernie Sanders has powerful, passionate, and loyal supporters, and a remarkable fund-raising machine. But after Biden won South Carolina, other candidates dropped out and endorsed Biden, not Sanders.

Let’s face it. Most Democratic voters don’t want a revolution. They want to beat Trump, and they like Biden’s chances. Even with an almost invisible campaign, he’s ahead of Trump in battleground states and national polls.
They like Biden’s decency. He’s kind, not mean like Trump. He’s civil, not vicious like Trump. He has the capacity for empathy, unlike Trump, who is incapable of giving comfort or solace to anyone. Biden has known personal grief and suffering. He is human. He is mainstream and establishment, which Sanders’ followers criticize, but apparently most Democrats find comforting.

Both Trump and Biden are in their 70s. Neither has put forward an electrifying vision for change. We know what Trump stands for: racism, xenophobia, inciting hatred, blaming others for his failures, never taking responsibility, constant boasting, persistent lying, unbridled narcissism.

After more than three chaotic, jarring, frightening, crisis-ridden, and mean-spirited years of Trump, most Democratic voters seem to be looking for stability, a steady hand at the tiller, and competence. That’s what they see in Biden.

Biden offers a return to “normalcy.” Not charisma, or grand promises, or change, but calm. The fact that the country is currently gripped by a public health crisis and a collapsing stock market makes the appeal of calm even stronger to a weary, frightened, and nervous nation.

Let us hope that Biden, if elected, does not restore the failed education policies of Arne Duncan or install an Education Secretary who clings to the test-and-punish regime. Let’s hope that he recognizes the failure of Race to the Top and avoids anyone who was part of it.

Evidently Trump is so afraid of facing Biden that he was willing to break the law and risk impeachment to hurt Biden’s chances. Now we will have a nasty campaign in which Trump says over and over “Hunter Biden, corrupt.” “Sleepy Joe.” Trump has a mean machine ready to attack and slime Biden, as he would have slimed anyone else who opposed him.

People who live in glass houses…

When the Trump regime is eventually analyzed by historians, I am willing to bet that they document public corruption and ethical breaches that make Teapot Dome look like a tea party. The Trump family has profited, and Trump himself has made money, in defiance of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution.

The Republican Party is now raising hundreds of millions to keep Trump in office. Michael Bloomberg promised during the campaign that he was prepared to spend $1 billion to defeat Trump, but so far there is no sign of that Bloomberg billion. Biden is far behind Trump in fundraising. If the primary is any indication, the American people know what is at stake. At last report, the GOP had a huge financial advantage over Biden.

Mr. Trump and his shared committees with the R.N.C. raised $63 million in March and entered April with a combined $244 million in cash on hand. Mr. Biden and the D.N.C. had $57.2 million in the bank, after accounting for unpaid debts.

If money alone were enough to win campaigns, Mike Bloomberg would be the Democratic nominee; he spent $1 billion and won only American Samoa.

Biden now has the endorsement of all his Democratic rivals.

But what about Tara Reade? I don’t believe her. She had many opportunities to make her charges public over the past 27 years, but she waited until March 2020, after Biden was well advanced on his path to the nomination, to go public. She could have spoken out in 2008, when Biden was selected to run with Obama. She didn’t. She could have spoken out in 2017, when the #MeToo movement emerged in response to multiple revelations about sexual predator Harvey Weinstein; at that time, many women announced that they too had suffered sexual abuse. She didn’t. She could have spoken out when Biden announced that he was running for president in 2020. She was silent. She claims he sexually assaulted her in the basement of the Russell Senate Office Building. The basement is where senators and their staff go to catch a trolley to the Capitol. It is a busy public space with tight security. There are no hidden niches where a prominent senator could assault a young intern without being observed. Men who force themselves on women tend to be repeat offenders (think Weinstein, Trump, Jeffrey Epstein), yet no other woman has accused Biden of heinous behavior. I won’t even go into her repeated tweets praising Putin in fulsome language. PBS interviewed 74 Biden staffers and found no one who supported Reade’s allegations. Why did she alone have this dreadful experience? I don’t believe her. If this is the issue that determines your vote, why would you support a man who has been credibly accused of sexual assault by multiple women and has publicly declared his view of women as sexual prey?

Biden’s job for now is to reach voters and energize the base as well as the independents who are sick of Trump’s narcissism and lies. At present, Biden is locked down like almost everyone else in the country. No rallies, no pressing the flesh, no person-to-person events. Maybe he can run a so-called “front porch” campaign, sitting quietly at home while Trump knocks himself out with idiotic and unhinged remarks.

He said he will pick a woman as his vice-presidential nominee. It should be someone with the experience and knowledge to be ready to act as president on short notice. I personally favor Elizabeth Warren. But there are other excellent candidates, including Amy Klobuchar and Kamala Harris. Biden knows the gravity of choosing the right running mate.

For all of us, for the nation, for the world, the choice in November is crucial. It is Biden or Trump. Period.

I will do whatever I can to help elect Joe Biden.

A team of reporters from the Washington Post interviewed 82 sources, including administration officials, advisors, and outside experts to tell the story of what happened inside the White House during a crucial period in responding to the pandemic. Trump was indecisive, he vacillated, he consistently put politics over science. He was more willing to listen to FOX News hosts and political advisors than to scientists. He was consistent in only one thing: abdicating any national leadership. He was content letting the states forage for their own supplies, bid against each other, take the lead. He made clear that he was responsible for nothing. He was quick to tout quack cures and quick to find others to blame for his own lack of leadership. His critics have long said that he was unfit to lead the nation–he only plays the role of president; early in his presidency, he claimed that he could run his business and the federal government and still have time for his customary golf weekends. He has proved beyond doubt that he is unfit to lead. He is the quintessential Do-Nothing President, whose major activities consist of tweeting, blaming others, and whining about the free press.

By
Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey, Yasmeen Abutaleb, Robert Costa and Lena H. Sun

May 2, 2020 at 11:20 p.m. EDT

The epidemiological models under review in the White House Situation Room in late March were bracing. In a best-case scenario, they showed the novel coronavirus was likely to kill between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans. President Trump was apprehensive about so much carnage on his watch, yet also impatient to reopen the economy — and he wanted data to justify doing so.

So the White House considered its own analysis. A small team led by Kevin Hassett — a former chairman of Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers with no background in infectious diseases — quietly built an econometric model to guide response operations.

Many White House aides interpreted the analysis as predicting that the daily death count would peak in mid-April before dropping off substantially, and that there would be far fewer fatalities than initially foreseen, according to six people briefed on it.

Although Hassett denied that he ever projected the number of dead, other senior administration officials said his presentations characterized the count as lower than commonly forecast — and that it was embraced inside the West Wing by the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and other powerful aides helping to oversee the government’s pandemic response. It affirmed their own skepticism about the severity of the virus and bolstered their case to shift the focus to the economy, which they firmly believed would determine whether Trump wins a second term.
Trump denies saying things he previously said about the coronavirus

For Trump — whose decision-making has been guided largely by his reelection prospects — the analysis, coupled with Hassett’s grim predictions of economic calamity, provided justification to pivot to where he preferred to be: cheering an economic revival rather than managing a catastrophic health crisis.

Trump directed his coronavirus task force to issue guidelines for reopening businesses, encouraged “LIBERATE” protests to apply pressure on governors and proclaimed that “the cure can’t be worse than the problem itself” — even as polls showed that Americans were far more concerned about their personal safety.

By the end of April — with more Americans dying in the month than in all of the Vietnam War — it became clear that the Hassett model was too good to be true. “A catastrophic miss,” as a former senior administration official briefed on the data described it. The president’s course would not be changed, however. Trump and Kushner began to declare a great victory against the virus, while urging America to start reopening businesses and schools.

“It’s going to go. It’s going to leave. It’s going to be gone. It’s going to be eradicated,” the president said Wednesday, hours after his son-in-law claimed the administration’s response had been “a great success story.”
The span of 34 days between March 29, when Trump agreed to extend strict social-distancing guidelines, and this past week, when he celebrated the reopening of some states as a harbinger of economic revival, tells a story of desperation and dysfunction.

So determined was Trump to extinguish the deadly virus that he repeatedly embraced fantasy cure-alls and tuned out both the reality that the first wave has yet to significantly recede and the possibility of a potentially worse second wave in the fall.

13 times Trump said the coronavirus would go away.

Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, President Trump has repeatedly said that the virus will disappear.
The president sought to obscure major problems by trying to recast them as triumphs. He repeatedly boasted, for instance, that the United States has conducted more tests than any other country, even though the total of 6.75 million is a fraction of the 2 million to 3 million tests per day that many experts say is needed to safely reopen.
And though Trump was fixated on reopening the economy, he and his administration fell far short of making that a reality. The factors that health and business leaders say are critical to a speedy and effective reopening — widespread testing, contact tracing and coordinated efforts between Washington and the states — remain lacking.

“We wasted two months denying it. We’re now wasting another two months by just dithering around,” said Kathleen Sebelius, a former Kansas governor and health secretary in the Obama administration. “The administration seems to have washed their hands of it and said [to governors], we’re out of it. You’re on your own. Figure it out.”
“That’s really the story of all this,” agreed one outside adviser to the Trump administration. “The states are just doing everything on their own.”

This story documenting Trump’s month-long struggle to reopen America is based on interviews with 82 administration officials, outside advisers and experts with detailed knowledge of the White House’s handling of the pandemic. Many of them spoke on the condition of anonymity to recount internal discussions or share candid assessments without risk of retribution.

Some of Trump’s closest advisers rebutted on the record the suggestion that the pandemic response has been anything but successful.

“This is a historically new challenge, and we’ve really risen to the occasion,” Kushner said in an interview. “When history looks back on this, they’ll say, man, the federal government acted really quickly and creatively, they threw a lot at the problem and saved a lot of lives.”

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany agreed. “President Trump’s swift and unprecedented action has saved American lives,” she said, pointing out that governors from both parties have praised some of the administration’s work.

Trump’s interactions with the states during the time were jarringly inconsistent. One day, he called himself a wartime president with total authority; the next day, he said he was merely President Backup, there to help states as he deems necessary.

Trump crowned himself “the king of ventilators” and boasted of his work shoring up supply chains, yet shamed governors for asking for too many supplies for besieged hospitals and health-care workers in their states. At one point, he seemed to suggest that hospitals were selling protective gear provided by the federal government on the black market.

And though administration health officials produced detailed guidelines for reopening, those released by Trump were intentionally vague and devoid of clear metrics, making it easier for the president to avoid responsibility and harder for local leaders to interpret. For instance, Trump initially embraced the aggressive reopening plan by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R), only to quickly abandon Kemp after public outcry.
“It’s not going to be coming back like some people think, and part of my job, I think, is to explain to the people of Ohio that we’re really not going to be all the way back,” said Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R), whose safety-first approach has won him enormous praise in his state. “We’re not going to be all the way back until we have a vaccine that is available to everyone.”

70 Days: The U.S. was beset by denial and dysfunction as the coronavirus raged

Trump tried to manage the perception of his performance by holding daily, hours-long press briefings that confused and repelled large swaths of the country. As the death toll mounted, the briefings became less about providing critical health information and more a forum for Trump to air grievances, shift blame, stoke feuds, spread misinformation and inspire false hope.

“It’s one hell of a difficult situation,” said economist Arthur Laffer, an outside Trump adviser. “Whatever he does, if something goes wrong, his critics will say, ‘I told you so!’ So he’s dealing with that, which isn’t a healthy environment.”

Trump’s confidants argue that the president has been moved by the pandemic. “Sometimes — and I felt this way with 9/11 — things are so big, so horrible, that if you’re the guy in charge, it makes you a little more humble,” said former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who as Trump’s personal lawyer has been speaking regularly with the president. “If you think about how he’s handled it, it is tough, it can be humbling.”

Yet if Trump felt humbled, he managed to avoid revealing much humility. Aside from reading perfunctory remarks scripted by aides, the president voiced little compassion for the tens of thousands who have lost lives or the tens of millions who have lost their jobs.

By month’s end, as businesses in Georgia, Colorado, Texas and elsewhere started to reopen, the total number of dead climbed past 60,000.

“It could get a whole lot worse, and anyone who doesn’t recognize that is really fooling themselves,” said Tom Frieden, a former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “As we go back out again, the virus is still there. If we don’t have systems to contain it, it can explode again. . . . There is no quick fix.”
President Trump holds a briefing in response to the coronavirus pandemic at the White House on March 31.

Seeking a silver bullet

For a week straight in late March, as businesses shuttered and jobless claims shot up, Trump talked about reopening the country quickly. He picked a start date of April 12, because he liked the idea of church pews packed with parishioners on Easter Sunday. Then he beat a hasty retreat.

Two physicians on the White House task force, Deborah Birx and Anthony S. Fauci, presented dire projections based on publicly-available models showing that without continued social distancing and other mitigation efforts as many as 1.6 million to 2.2 million Americans could die. With a continued lockdown, there would be an estimated 100,000 to 240,000 fatalities. Although some in the administration doubted the death toll would ever rise that high, they shared Birx and Fauci’s goal of persuading the president to take the pandemic more seriously.

Task force members prepared to extend social distancing guidelines, already in place for 15 days, for an additional two weeks and then reassess. But Trump — who also had been influenced by watching television footage of body bags being carried out of a hospital near his Queens boyhood home in New York — surprised them by agreeing to extend social distancing for 30 days, until the end of April. For the doctors, this was a quiet victory.

“He’s a guy that goes with his gut,” said a senior administration official involved in task force discussions. The doctors, this official added, “don’t have that luxury. Their jobs are to make sure he understands where they are on the science and data.”

Trump, meanwhile, used his presidential megaphone to promote what he thought was a silver bullet:
hydroxychloroquine. Night after night in late March and early April, he kept hearing about the controversial anti-malarial drug on his favorite Fox News Channel programs, where television doctors and commentators touted its efficacy. He also heard about the drug in a flurry of conversations with Giuliani and other friends.

Hydroxychloroquine became a presidential obsession. He asked about it in meetings — “What’s the hold up?” he would complain — and repeatedly asked Food and Drug Administration commissioner Stephen Hahn if he was moving as quickly as possible to approve it, officials said.

Hahn said in an interview Saturday, “I can assure you 100 percent that the president has never pressured me to make a decision regarding any regulatory aspect of the FDA’s work.”

The commissioner added that in each of their conversations about hydroxychloroquine Trump has said something along the lines of, “It might work, it might not work, but he doesn’t see any reason why a doctor can’t make that decision. And he totally acknowledged that we might discover it may not work.”

In one Oval Office meeting, Trump asked advisers about a French study released in late March that tested whether hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin were effective against covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The small, non-random study was dismissed by many public-health experts, yet Trump seized on it as evidence the drugs might work. As the president said repeatedly in public, “What do you have to lose?” Hahn had to explain that the combination of the medications could cause heart toxicity.

On April 3, Fox host Laura Ingraham paid Trump a visit in the Oval Office to talk up hydroxychloroquine. She brought with her two regular on-air guests in what she dubs her “medicine cabinet”: Ramin Oskoui, a Washington-based cardiologist, and Stephen Smith, a New Jersey-based infectious disease specialist. Hahn attended as well, as Smith made a detailed presentation, complete with a spreadsheet, about how hydroxychloroquine works and its value as a treatment during hospitalization.

“I’m a guy who looks at data,” Smith said in an interview. “I came as a scientist and physician. I trained under Dr. Fauci and respect him a lot.”

Oskoui declined to comment.

Some senior Republicans who heard about the meeting cringed about a television host’s special access to offer medical advice to the president, but it fit a pattern of Trump soliciting input from media stars rather than government experts.

In what was widely seen as an effort to placate Trump, the FDA issued an emergency use authorization for the drug, and the drug was added to the Strategic National Stockpile. But the president conflated those efforts with outright approval of the drug, which the senior official said “gave a little more ammo because it created the optics that approval had basically been given to the drug.”

Trump at times went to extreme lengths to promote hydroxychloroquine. Keith Frankel, a vitamins executive who occasionally socializes with Trump at his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla., said the president asked him to call California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on his cellphone and try to make a deal for the nation’s largest state to buy millions of tablets of hydroxychloroquine from an Indian manufacturer. Frankel said he got Newsom’s phone number from Trump.

Frankel was not working through official U.S. government channels, according to a senior government official. California did not agree to take the drugs being offered, Frankel said, adding that after consulting with Trump he also spoke to hospital officials in New Jersey and the state health commissioner in New York.

“A guy I know sells products to these guys in India who are making the drug,” Frankel said. He said he learned of the Indian manufacturer through a connection in Turkey. Several million of the pills could have been supplied, he said, but “there ended up being no deal.”

Frankel, who said he was recovering from the coronavirus himself, claimed the drugs would have been sold at cost to the states. “It was totally honest and philanthropic,” he said, arguing that taking the drug had helped him recover.
Trump embraced hydroxychloroquine, as well as azithromycin, as “one of the biggest game-changers in the history of medicine.” In the weeks that followed, however, the dangers became more clear. A Veterans Affairs study released April 21 found that covid-19 patients who were treated with hydroxychloroquine were more likely to die than those who were not. Three days later, the FDA warned that doctors should not use the drug to treat covid-19 patients outside a hospital or clinical trial because of reports of “serious heart rhythm problems.”

Although Trump stopped touting the drug publicly, privately he maintained his support for hydroxychloroquine and got upset with government officials presenting studies or bringing him evidence of its risks or failings, encouraging them to have a more positive outlook, aides said.

Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator; Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams listen as President Trump speaks during a briefing at the White House on April 22.

As April began with the extension of social distancing, tensions grew within the administration between the doctors and scientists advising the response and the economic and political aides with longer-standing relationships with the president.

Marc Short, chief of staff to Vice President Pence, exerted significant influence over the coronavirus task force, setting the agenda and determining seating arrangements for meetings as well as helping to orchestrate press briefings. Short also is one of the White House’s most vocal skeptics of how bad the pandemic would be. He repeatedly questioned the data being shared with Trump, and in internal discussions said he did not believe the death toll would ever get to 60,000 and that the administration was overreacting, damaging the economy and the president’s chances for reelection, according to people who have heard his arguments.

Day after day, Short pressed other officials to reopen the entire country, encouraging more risks to get the economy humming again. Short succeeded in pushing for Trump to resume travel, as Pence had done, over the objections of some officials, who argued that leaving Washington endangers the principals and their staffs. Trump plans to visit a mask manufacturing plant in Arizona on Tuesday.

Short aligned with Hassett, Kushner, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow, among others, who shared the belief that the economy had been shut down for long enough. A former senior administration official briefed on the internal dynamics described the consensus mind-set among this bloc as believing health officials were “like the school nurse trying to tell the principal how to run the school.”

Hassett’s data analysis helped affirm this view internally. Hassett said he merely built a tool to evaluate the evolution of data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. He confirmed that he shared his charts internally and that they often showed fewer deaths than IHME or others were projecting — but that he was drawing a curve based on real-time mortality data versus what the charts predicted would happen for the same days.

“I have never, ever said that that’s my projection of what the death count was going to be, and no administration policy has been influenced by my projections,” he said, adding, “It’s an utterly false story that I’ve been a rosy-scenario guy inside the White House.”

The task force members with medical degrees — Birx, Fauci and Hahn, as well as CDC Director Robert Redfield, Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams and Brett Giroir, who leads the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps — splintered off in mid- to late-March and began meeting on their own almost daily, three senior administration officials said. Some in the “doctors group” were distressed by what one official dubbed the “voodoo” discussed within the broader task force.

The CDC, which traditionally takes the lead in public health responses, has not held a media briefing since March 9. But Redfield said he enjoyed “a prime position on the ladder of the decision-making process.”

“The one thing that has been extremely gratifying is that the public health message has been respected as the public health message,” Redfield said.

The doctors group strove to present a unified front to the president on various medical and scientific issues. They recently discussed how antibody tests, designed to identify people with possible immunity from the virus, are not a panacea to reopening the country because the results sometimes are inaccurate.

“There’s a little bit of a God complex,” one senior administration official said of the group. “They’re all about science, science, science, which is good, but sometimes there’s a little bit less of a consideration of politics when maybe there should be.”

With health professionals and other new faces suddenly in his midst, Trump sought comfort from the familiar. Hope Hicks, an original staffer on the 2016 campaign who left the White House in 2018, returned in March in a senior adviser capacity.

Hicks accompanied the president to most every meeting and planned his daily schedule, aides said, suggesting themed events, tweaking his scripted public comments and even calling Cabinet secretaries to convey the president’s directives. She attended coronavirus task force meetings most days, even though Trump often skipped them, sitting prominently along with doctors and economists.

Trump has peppered his new chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and other senior aides with phone calls “in almost every single hour of the day,” sometimes well after midnight, according to one senior official. The president was often in a sour mood, complaining about media coverage and carping that he does not get enough credit.

‘The system is broken’

One of the more political issues during this period was the fight for supplies, such as ventilators, testing machines and swabs, and masks and other protective gear. Amid disruptions to the global supply chain, governors pleaded with the White House for help obtaining equipment from the Strategic National Stockpile, but the administration did not quickly meet their needs, and Trump derided governors when he thought they were asking for too much or not praising him enough.

Kushner struck a nerve on April 2 when he said that “the notion of the federal stockpile was it’s supposed to be our stockpile. It’s not supposed to be states’ stockpiles that they then use.”

Drive-throughs were the centerpiece of the administration’s national testing plan, pieced together by Kushner and his team and hastily rolled out by Trump on March 13 in the Rose Garden. The president promised that 5 million tests would be distributed before the end of the month. A few days earlier, Pence had been even more optimistic, announcing that more than 1 million tests already had been distributed and another four million would be sent out by the end of that week.

But Trump’s promise of a drive-through testing site at your neighborhood CVS or Walmart never materialized. The administration ultimately stood up 78 testing sites, rather than the thousands initially promised, and then the president placed responsibility for testing on the states.

“The need to reopen, that was not based on a clear road map of how people were going to be tested,” said Bhaskar Chakravorti, dean of global business at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. “The system is broken at every point.”

Trump has tried to claim testing as an unambiguous success. “We want to get our country open, and the testing is not going to be a problem at all,” he said Monday in the Rose Garden. “In fact, it’s going to be one of the greatest assets that we have.”

Yet even as the administration helped significantly ramp up testing capacity, problems persisted. Several states grew frustrated as they tried to procure testing supplies through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Federal and state officials said it was unclear who was in charge, leading to rampant confusion, and tests went unused because there were not enough other supplies to administer them.

A federal official who recently met with Birx said “she knows they are far behind on testing, no matter what the president says.”

In a White House meeting with other officials in early April, Birx said that many of the testing labs were still only operating at 10 percent of capacity. Birx said she needed to learn where all the machines and labs were, and that the government did not know.

During one call, Kemp told the president testing was such a problem in Georgia that he was working with the National Guard.

Trump has often touted a testing system created by Abbott that can run nearly 500 tests in 24 hours. But the vast majority of Abbott’s tests are going unused because of a shortage of materials and staff to run them, two senior administration officials said.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) said Trump was either confused about what is required to administer tests or deliberately glossing over the urgent problems.

“The truth of the matter is that the president doesn’t seem to understand the difference between testing capacity and getting testing results,” Pritzker said. “We don’t have the supplies to run those tests.”

In Wisconsin, for instance, Gov. Tony Evers (D) requested 60,000 plastic tips needed to store reagents and 10,000 testing swabs and numerous reagent kits from FEMA in late March. But by April 21, the day Pence visited Wisconsin to tout the administration’s pandemic response, Wisconsin had only received 2,800 tips and 3,500 testing swabs, according to Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.).

When members of the congressional delegation appealed to FEMA Director Peter Gaynor and some of his deputies, the agency said in a conference call that it did not have enough supplies and that the state would need to work with the CDC, according to Pocan, who was on the call. Then, on April 8, FEMA changed its policy to make it the responsibility of states to procure supplies from commercial distributors, Pocan said.

“Just telling us to go to the private market isn’t a solution,” Pocan said. “It’s an excuse.”

Without assistance from Washington, Wisconsin began working with Illinois, Michigan and other states in a regional alliance to obtain supplies and develop a strategy. States in other regions of the country also are partnering with one another, forming a patchwork of alliances.

“The government is showing up in split screen, where Washington is dominated by whatever President Trump is thinking moment by moment,” Sebelius said. “What’s very difficult in a country that is as big and mobile as the United States is to have the state-by-state or city-by-city decision-making process. Nothing could be more confusing to people.”

In Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) quietly entered into negotiations with South Korea, with the help of his wife, Yumi, a Korean American. Exasperated with the lack of tests in his state, Hogan spent about 22 days arranging to procure 500,000 tests, negotiating with eight different Maryland agencies, the Korean embassy and officials at the State Department.

Once the FDA and U.S. Customs and Border Protection signed off on the deal, a Korean Air jet touched down at Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport on April 18 to deliver the supplies. Hogan said he was worried federal officials would try to commandeer the tests, so he had Maryland Army National Guard members and Maryland State Police officers escort and protect the cargo.

“It was like Fort Knox to us, because it was going to save the lives of thousands of our citizens,” Hogan said. “That was so important to us that we wanted to make sure that that plane took off from Korea safely, landed here in America safely, and that we guarded that cargo from whoever might interfere with us getting that to our folks that needed it.”

The move infuriated Trump, who has long chafed at Hogan’s criticisms and, according to advisers, saw Maryland’s deal with South Korea as a bid to embarrass the president.

White House officials argue the administration has been unusually attentive to the needs of states. After early complaints, the administration ramped up production and delivery of ventilators and the supply is now considered sufficient. Trump had 25 one-on-one calls with governors from at least 14 states in April, aides said, while members of the Cabinet and coronavirus task force had at least 113 such conversations.

“The media have been distracted by examples of disagreement instead of focusing on the vast examples of partnership and coming together of state and federal governments,” said Douglas Hoelscher, the White House’s director of intergovernmental affairs.

Kushner said Saturday that criticisms from governors are outdated and that every state’s testing needs have now been satisfied. He challenged any governor who claims unmet needs to contact his office.

“We’ve figured out how to get all of the states enough complete testing kits to do the testing that they’ve requested,” Kushner said. “We can get to a really big number in May. The biggest thing holding us back is not supplies or capacity; it’s the states’ ability to collect more samples.”

‘Get open, get open, get open’

The weekend of April 11, Trump took a break from his daily news conferences in observance of Easter. He spent considerable time on the phone with friends and advisers and began to shift toward concluding that the country could not afford to remain locked down much longer. He was irate with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, officials said, screaming and swearing at one ally about how things were so unfair.

The president set his sights on a May 1 reopening.

Trump had been agonizing over the economy, watching the number of Americans filing unemployment insurance claims climb each week. He fretted about the unemployment rate rising to 15 percent or even higher, a milestone that advisers warned him would seriously jeopardize his reelection.

In a private April call with supporters on immigration, Ken Cuccinelli, a top immigration official, said that the numbers would be “so stunning . . . that it will be a messaging hit.”

In a sign of how Trump’s priorities were changing, two Situation Room meetings on Saturdays in April began with presentations by Hassett and Kudlow about the economy. They both warned the president of double-digit unemployment and tens of millions of Americans losing their jobs.

In one of the meetings, Hassett had such a negative outlook on the economy that he asked people in the room not to repeat his comments to others, according to people familiar with the meeting. At one point, he suggested that GDP could fall 40 percent and that tens of millions people could lose their jobs. Hassett has since made similar comments publicly, warning of unemployment levels not seen since the Great Depression.

Trump heard that message from others as well. He held regular calls with a group known internally as “Kudlow’s guys” — generational peers with high media profiles, including Laffer, financier Steve Forbes and economist Stephen Moore.

“Get open, get open, get open — we kept pressing that point,” Moore said. Otherwise, he recalled telling Trump, “You’ll have a mini-Great Depression. You’ll have body bags of dead businesses and jobs that will never be resurrected.”

On April 14, Ingraham returned to the Oval Office to meet with the president. The Fox host reiterated her belief that the country needed to reopen and argued for limits on contact tracing, a person with knowledge of the meeting said.

As Trump watched television during this period, he sensed popular support. Outside state capitols, a smattering of activists flouted social distancing guidelines to protest governors who had issued stay-at-home orders. Many of them waved Trump campaign flags or sported other Trump-branded paraphernalia.

To create political cover for Trump, White House aides scrambled to put together a business advisory council made up of chief executives from across a range of industries.

“The primary concern from everybody was really safety: Consumer safety, guest safety, and making sure that there was confidence and comfort from the public to be able to go back to wherever, whether it’s a store or a shopping mall or a bank or a restaurant,” said Thomas Keller, a celebrity chef and restaurateur who participated.

Other members said they were only invited to one conference call, and the group has been largely dormant since, with no clear mechanism to share ideas.

As the White House prepared to roll out new guidelines for reopening, CDC and FEMA officials sent a 36-page document on April 10 outlining in detail the recommended stages of reopening, including detailed instructions for schools, child-care facilities, summer camps, parks, faith-based organizations and restaurants.

But on April 16, when Trump and Birx released their guidelines for a slow and staggered return to normal in places with minimal cases of the coronavirus, many of the details fine-tuned by the CDC were stripped out.

Officials continued to debate how restaurants, bars and houses of worship should operate. The CDC circulated a 17-page document with strong recommendations, but many in the White House resisted, particularly when it came to restricting parishioners from singing in choirs or sharing hymnals and offering plates, and suggesting that restaurants use digital menus and avoid salad bars. The document has not been made public and is still in the editing process.

Trump formally embraced the quarantine protesters on April 17 with a trio of all-caps tweets: “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” “LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” and “LIBERATE VIRGINIA.”

Inside the White House, there was disappointment about Trump’s tweets since many of his aides had hoped to frame his decision on reopening as a presidential test he had met with calm. Privately, several of them acknowledged that the “LIBERATE” tweets brought Trump back into the realm of conspiracy and anger, which he considers safe harbor when he feels boxed in.

Even as Trump berated aides last week over the poor pace of testing — “We have no message on testing,” he complained, according to a senior administration official who directly heard the president — he publicly focused elsewhere. West Wing aides are planning to book more media appearances by Kudlow, Hassett and Mnuchin in coming weeks, with fewer by Birx and Fauci.

“The White House apparatus is totally shifting to the economy,” the senior official said, noting that Trump is convening discussions about reopening this weekend at Camp David.

‘Almost a cleaning’

With Trump engaged in a war of words with governors over testing, public health experts were sounding an alarm about another vulnerability: contact tracing. Finding and isolating infected people and their contacts had been the cornerstone for successful mitigation efforts in South Korea, Singapore and other countries.

For parts of the United States to reopen, health departments need to be ready to extinguish any new outbreaks immediately. That would require an enormous corps of health workers known as contact tracers to track down anyone who might have been exposed to someone with covid-19.

But as with testing, the federal government has placed the onus on states to devise their own contact tracing programs. So state and local health departments started developing programs on their own, or formed regional partnerships.

“We need a national commitment to get this done in order to defeat the virus,” said Michael Leavitt, a former Republican governor of Utah and health secretary in the George W. Bush administration.

Inside the West Wing, there were sharp fights over contact tracing and whether to approve the use of smartphone apps. For example, in a recent Situation Room meeting, Trump senior adviser Stephen Miller questioned contact tracing because so many people were asymptomatic, advisers said.

Trump, however, rarely mentioned contact tracing. His focus was on more personal challenges. One senior White House official said that the president was among the most animated when discussing what his press appearances would be like: A call-in to the radio? A morning photo opp? An evening news conference? Hicks had to move along the conversation in coronavirus meetings by telling the boss they would decide later.

On April 21, when New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) visited the White House to meet with Trump, the president asked if he would join him at that afternoon’s press briefing, an idea Hicks encouraged, according to officials with knowledge of the episode.

Cuomo declined and left the White House without news photographers snapping pictures of him with the president.

The next day, Trump’s focus was squarely on his declining political fortunes. His reelection team — including Kushner, campaign manager Brad Parscale and Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel — staged something of an intervention. They presented fresh polls that painted a picture so grim they hoped the president would be persuaded to curtail his daily press briefings, as the data suggested the performances had damaged him.

One of the polls, an internal RNC survey of voters in 17 battleground states, had former vice president Joe Biden leading Trump 48 to 45 percent, according to an adviser briefed on the 20-page polling memo. The coronavirus ranked as the most important issue to voters, and 54 percent of those surveyed said Trump was too slow to respond to the crisis, while 52 percent said they believed the government should be doing more.

Worse still were the matchups with Biden on a range of core characteristics. Just 36 percent said they considered Trump more honest and trustworthy; 35 percent said he was more compassionate and empathetic; 44 percent said he was more competent; 43 percent said they believed he fights more for people like them; and 36 percent said he was more calm, steady and relatable.

Trump did outperform Biden in some areas, such as being better at getting things done and better in handling a crisis. Still, on a question that historically has helped determine whether incumbents win reelection — whether the country is headed in the right direction — just 37 percent said they believed it was.

The decision to share the data with Trump backfired. The president went into one of his rages. He said he did not believe the numbers, arguing that people “love” his performances at the briefings and think he is “fighting for them,” according to a person with knowledge of the conversation. He berated Parscale for the polling data, threatening that he might sue his campaign manager — although it was unclear whether he made the remark in jest, and the two would later bury the hatchet.

On April 23, the day after his campaign team’s polling intervention, Trump continued with his usual behavior. During a lengthy and at times hostile question-and-answer session with reporters, Trump mused aloud about being treated with ultraviolet light or injecting bleach or another household disinfectant into the body to cure the coronavirus.
“I see the disinfectant, where it knocks [the virus] out in a minute — one minute — and is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside, or almost a cleaning,” Trump said, referring to the human body.

Injecting or ingesting disinfectants is dangerous and can be deadly. Trump would later claim he was being sarcastic, but there was no trace of sarcasm in the president’s comments.

That day, 1,857 Americans died of the coronavirus. The next week, the number of cases reported in the United States surpassed 1 million.

And by month’s end, as Trump cheered businesses reopening in Georgia, Texas and several other states “because we have to get our country back,” the total dead climbed past 63,000, with no sign of slowing down.

Veteran journalist Mark Liebovich notes in this opinion article In the New York Times how Trump has ditched the long-time tradition of bipartisan unity in the face of national crisis.

There used to be a tradition that politics stops at the water’s edge, meaning a bipartisan foreign policy. That’s gone. In the aftermath of 9/11, politics was replaced by shared mourning. Liebovich notes the failure to mark the anniversary of the terrorist bombing in Oklahoma City, as well as Trump’s natural tendency to turn the current crisis into political fodder. No more reaching across the aisle. With rare exceptions, like the Senate report on Russian interference in 2026, bipartisanship is dead. One thinks sadly of the late Senator John McCain’s plea for a return to regular order,” which was spurned by Trump and Mitch McConnell, in their eagerness to push through a radical right agenda and to stuff the judiciary with extremist judges.

Liebovich writes:

WASHINGTON — Last weekend, an anniversary of the kind that would have once united the country in reflection — the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, 25 years ago — passed without much in the way of comment. As the days inside pile up, our usual approach to a national moment of remembrance appeared lost to the fog of time, germs and Trump era news cycles.

The lack of attention was cast in relief by one person who did speak up: Former President Bill Clinton, who for a variety of reasons seems to have receded from public view since his wife was defeated by Donald Trump for the presidency in 2016. Mr. Clinton, the embattled first-term president of early 1995, would become the dominant presence in the brittle aftermath of Oklahoma City. The various psychodramas of his two terms can obscure the significance of the incident as a political marker of that era; now, it is a global pandemic that is seizing attention from Washington traditions like civic remembrance and bipartisan affirmation.

“In many ways, this is the perfect time to remember Oklahoma City and to repeat the promise we made to them in 1995 to all Americans today,” Mr. Clinton said in an op-ed that ran last Sunday in The Oklahoman.

It’s easy to dismiss this as boilerplate pulled straight from the “stuff politicians say” binder. But its tone is also conspicuous in how it contrasts with the words to a nation in need of solace and mending that come from the current White House.

One of the recurring features of the Trump years has been the president’s knack for detonating so many of our powerful shared experiences into us-versus-them grenades. Whether it’s the anniversary of a national catastrophe like the Oklahoma City bombing, the death of a widely admired statesman (Senator John McCain) or a lethal pathogen, Mr. Trump has exhibited minimal interest in the tradition of national strife placing a pause upon the usual smallness of politics.

In this fractured political environment, the president has shown particular zest for identifying symbols that reveal and exacerbate cultural divisions. Kneeling football players, plastic straws and the question of whether a commander in chief should be trumpeting an untested antimalarial drug from the White House briefing room have all become fast identifiers of what team you’re on. Looming sickness and mass death are no exception. The reflex to unite during a period of collective grief feels like another casualty of the current moment.

It used to be a norm, back before everything got stripped down to its noisiest culture war essence. Tradition dictated that whenever a national loss or trauma occurred, political combatants would stand down, at least for a time. President George W. Bush could embrace Senator Tom Daschle, then the Democratic majority leader, after an emotional address that Mr. Bush delivered to a joint session of congress in the days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. President Barack Obama did the same with Chris Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey, when Mr. Obama visited the state and saw the devastation of Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

To varying degrees, both Mr. Daschle and Mr. Christie caught heat from within their parties after the crises faded into the past and partisan engines revved up again. At the time, though, the gestures felt appropriate and stature-enhancing for everyone involved. Those dynamics have since shifted considerably.

“I think we’re dealing with a whole different world and set of personalities,” said Mr. Daschle, now a former senator from South Dakota, adding that acts of solidarity during adverse times benefit all parties. “I remember after 9/11, congressional approval was something like in the ’80s, and for the president it was around the same,” he said.

Oklahoma City also offered a political gift to Mr. Clinton, a battered leader whose party had lost control of Congress the year before and who had, a few days earlier, found himself defending the “relevance” of his office. Mr. Clinton performed his role of eulogist and comforter, won bipartisan praise for his “performance” and an increase of good will that would eventually help right his presidency on a path to his re-election in 1996.

Mr. Clinton, historians said, always appreciated the power of big, bipartisan gestures, even when they involved incendiary rivals. “He understood the healing powers of the presidency,” said Ted Widmer, a presidential historian at City University of New York, and a former adviser to Mr. Clinton who assisted him in writing his memoirs. He mentioned a generous eulogy that Mr. Clinton delivered for disgraced former President Richard Nixon, after he died in 1994. “There is a basic impulse a president can have for when the country wants their leader to rise above politics and mudslinging,” Mr. Widmer said.

In that regard, Mr. Trump’s performance during this pandemic has been a missed opportunity. “The coronavirus could have been Donald Trump’s finest hour,” Mr. Widmer said. “You really sensed that Americans wanted to be brought together. But now that appears unattainable.”

For whatever reason, Mr. Trump seems uninterested in setting aside personal resentment, even when some small gestures — a photo op or a joint statement with Democratic leaders in Congress; a bipartisan pandemic commission chaired by former presidents — could score him easy statesmanship points.

His unwillingness to deal in any way with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (they have reportedly not spoken since the House voted to impeach Mr. Trump in January) has rendered him a bystander during negotiations with Congress on massive economic recovery bills that were by and large led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. He has taken shots at popular Democratic governors in the hard-hit states of Washington and of Michigan; his approval ratings are dipping — and lag behind that of most governors.

Supporters of Mr. Trump say they appreciate that he doesn’t betray his true feelings for the sake of adhering to Beltway happy talk. This resolve appears central to his credibility with them. They elected him to disrupt, not to play nice and don a mask, whether made of artifice or cloth.

This weekend was supposed to mark another of those pauses in D.C. hostilities, albeit of a very different nature: the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner, the spring tradition that brings together a hair-sprayed throng along a pecking order of A- to D-list celebrities. The festivities are embedded with the ostensibly high-minded purpose of saluting the First Amendment and raising money for journalism scholarships. If you can score yourself a selfie with Gayle King, all the better.

In the view of many inside the Beltway, the correspondents’ dinner had long outlived its appeal and probably should have been canceled well before Covid-19 did the trick this year (the dinner has been postponed until August). Regardless, presidents of both parties would reliably show up, if only as a gesture of good faith or nod to a local bipartisan tradition.

But Mr. Trump — a veteran of the dinners in his pre-political days, including a memorable evening in which he endured a brutal roasting at the hands of then-President Barack Obama in 2011 — wanted no part of the correspondents’ dinner from the outset of his presidency. Instead, he would take the opportunity to hold “alternative programming” events in the form of Saturday night rallies in places like Pennsylvania, deftly placing himself in populist opposition to the preening Tux-and-Gowned creatures of the swamp.

Mr. Trump’s arrival in Washington inspired another counter-programing surrogate for the main event when the comedian Samantha Bee, host of the TBS program “Full Frontal,” started her own production across town, called “Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.” There, she would toss affectionate barbs at the assembled press, usually at the expense of Mr. Trump. “You continue to fact-check the president,” she said in 2017, “as if he might actually someday get embarrassed.”

Beyond the excesses of the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, for a president to partake of this tradition also requires an ability to be a good sport. The guest of honor will inevitably suffer good-natured ribbing at the hands of the hired comedian (or, better yet, not-so-good-natured ribbing — the most memorable routine occurring in 2006, when Stephen Colbert unleashed a sarcastic takedown of then-President George W. Bush and the press corps that Mr. Colbert pointedly suggested had coddled him).

The exercise also requires a president with at least minimal skill at solemnly paying heed to the principles that brought everyone together in the first place. First among these is the preservation of a free and fair press, not something a president fond of the term “fake news” will ever be synonymous with.

Still, for the many Washingtonians lucky enough to be working from home, six weeks being trapped indoors and fighting with family members about dishes can breed nostalgia for even the most played-out D.C. tradition. The correspondents’ dinner might confirm every worst stereotype of a full-of-itself political class. But anything that involves getting dressed up and actually doing stuff with other people sounds appetizing right about now, especially if it doesn’t involve Zoom.

For months, the Trump administration refused to hold press conferences to avoid answering questions from the press. Then came the pandemic, and two things happened. First, Trump stopped holding rallies for his base because it was too dangerous to hold them (ironic since he sides with the protestors who believe the pandemic is a hoax). Second, Trump realized that he could substitute daily “briefings” for his rallies, where he controls the venue and the actors, just like a reality show, with him playing the role of president.

Charles Blow of the New York Times says the free press should stop giving Trump free media in the run up to the election.

He writes:

“Around this time four years ago, the media world was all abuzz over an analysis by mediaQuant, a company that tracks what is known as “earned media” coverage of political candidates. Earned media is free media.

“The firm computed that Donald Trump had “earned” a whopping $2 billion of coverage, dwarfing the value earned by all other candidates, Republican and Democrat, even as he had only purchased about $10 million of paid advertising.

“As The New York Times reported at the time, the company’s chief analytics officer, Paul Senatori, explained: “The mediaQuant model collects positive, neutral and negative media mentions alike. Mr. Senatori said negative media mentions are given somewhat less weight.”

“This wasn’t the first analysis that found that something was askew.

“In December 2015 CNN quoted the publisher of The Tyndall Report, which also tracks media coverage, saying Trump was “by far the most newsworthy story line of campaign 2016, accounting alone for more than a quarter of all coverage’ on NBC, CBS and ABC’s evening newscasts.”

“Simply put, the media was complicit in Trump’s rise. Trump was macabre theater, a man self-immolating in real time, one who was destined to lose, but who could provide entertainment, content and yes, profits while he lasted.

“The Hollywood Reporter in February of 2016 quoted CBS’s C.E.O. as saying, “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS,” because as The Reporter put it, “He likes the ad money Trump and his competitors are bringing to the network.”

“I fear that history is repeating itself.

“For over a month now, the White House has been holding its daily coronavirus briefings, and most networks, cable news channels and major news websites have been carrying all or parts of them live, as millions of people, trapped inside and anxious, have tuned in.

“The briefings are marked by Trump’s own misinformation, deceptions, rage, blaming and boasting. He takes no responsibility at all for his abysmal handling of the crisis, while each day he seems to find another person to blame, like a child frantically flinging spaghetti at a wall to see which one sticks.

“He delivers his disinformation flanked by scientists and officials, whose presence only serves to convey credibility to propagandistic performances that have simply become a replacement for his political rallies.

“We are in the middle of a pandemic, but we are also in the middle of a presidential campaign, and I shudder to think how much “earned media” the media is simply shoveling Trump’s way by airing these briefings, which can last up to two hours a day.

“Let me be clear: Under no circumstance should these briefings be carried live. Doing so is a mistake bordering on journalistic malpractice. Everything a president does or says should be documented but airing all of it, unfiltered, is lazy and irresponsible.

“As the veteran anchor Ted Koppel told The New York Times last month, “Training a camera on a live event, and just letting it play out, is technology, not journalism; journalism requires editing and context.” He continued, “The question, clearly, is whether his status as president of the United States obliges us to broadcast his every briefing live.” His answer was “no.”

“We have trained the American television audience to understand that regular programs are only interrupted for live events when they are truly important, things that the viewers need to see now, in real time. These briefings simply don’t reach that threshold. In fact, some of what Trump has said has been dangerous, like when he pushed an unproven and potentially harmful drug as a treatment for the virus.

“No amount of fact checkers, balancing with the briefings of governors, or even occasionally cutting away, can justify carrying these briefings live. The scant amount of new information that these rallies produce could be edited into a short segment for a show. The major headlines from these briefings are often Trump’s clashes with reporters, the differences he has with scientists and the lies he tells. Just like in 2016, it’s all theater.

“Donald Trump doesn’t care about being caught in a lie. Donald Trump doesn’t care about the truth.

“Donald Trump is a bare-knuckled politician with imperial impulses, falsely claiming that, “When somebody’s the president of the U.S., the authority is total,” encouraging protesters bristling about social distancing policies to “liberate” swings states, and saying that Speaker Nancy Pelosi will be “overthrown, either by inside or out.”

“Trump has completely politicized this pandemic and the briefings have become a tool of that politicization. He is standing on top of nearly 40,000 dead bodies and using the media to distract attention away from them and instead brag about what a great job he’s done.

“In 2016, Trump stormed the castle by outwitting the media gatekeepers, exploiting their need for content and access, their intense hunger for ratings and clicks, their economic hardships and overconfidence.

“It’s all happening again. The media has learned nothing.”

Columnist David Weigel of the Washington Post writes that many Republicans have turned against vote-by-mail plans because Democrats support it. Ironically, absentee balloting typically favors Republicans.

He writes:

Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston called into a local interview show with bad news. It would be tough, he told FetchYourNews yesterday, to find “enough people to man” polling sites. It would be easier to “push back the date” of the primary, which Georgia’s governor had already delayed by two months. And a solution from Republican Secretary of State John Raffensperger — sending absentee ballot applications to every registered voter — was problematic, he said. “When you look at the people in Georgia that have lined up to support Secretary Raffensperger’s proposal, it’s every extreme, liberal Democratic group that’s out there,” Ralston said. “It kind of makes you wonder what their agenda is.”

That same conversation, with the same fear and suspicion, is happening in nearly every state. Just five states — Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington — were planning before the start of the coronavirus pandemic to conduct November’s elections with all-mail ballots. Voting rights groups and many Democrats have pointed to vote-by-mail as the most workable solution if in-person voting is a health risk.

But the very fact that Democrats support these changes has raised Republicans’ skepticism and heightened their opposition. Taking cues from the president, who warned this week that “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again” if Democrats’ reforms were adopted, some conservatives argue that expanding vote-by-mail is a liberal scheme. Anything that made it into H.R. 1, the House Democrats’ package of voting reforms that has been ignored by the Republican-run Senate, is immediately suspect.

“These rules were all intended to basically make it easier to manipulate elections, and frankly, make it easier to cheat,” Hans von Spakovsky, director of the conservative Heritage Foundation’s election law project, said in an interview with Breitbart News. “They have absolutely nothing to do whatsoever with helping the country deal with the coronavirus.”

Von Spakovsky, who has been criticized for overhyping the risks of voter fraud, spoke for many Republicans. If nothing changes before November, the election and the primaries still being held between now and then will be held in wildly divergent conditions from state to state. None of the states that conduct all-mail voting are seen as competitive in this year’s presidential election, and the debate about one party fighting for partisan advantage has not squared with their own experience. In fact, for years, rules expanding the use of absentee ballots were seen as favoring Republicans.

“Being a very red state, we haven’t seen anything that helps one party over another at all,” said Justin Lee, who has been Utah’s director of elections for three years as vote-by-mail was implemented. “We’ve heard less concern about voter fraud than about whether every ballot that should get counted does get counted.”

Of the eight states expected to be see the closest races — Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — only the first two have a robust absentee ballot tradition. New Hampshire requires voters who want an absentee ballot to declare that they will be at work, out of the state or unwell or that they have some religious exemption from in-person voting, while the seven other states have no special requirement.

Seven of the eight swing states have something else in common: divided governments. In Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, Democratic governors are frequently at odds with Republican-run legislatures. (In Minnesota, Republicans control the state Senate, while Democrats control the House.) For Wisconsin, that meant Gov. Tony Evers’s proposal to send postage-paid absentee ballots to voters was dead on arrival, with the Republican speaker of the House calling it an “invitation to voter fraud.”

In New Hampshire, Republican Gov. Chris Sununu contests with a Democratic-run General Court and has vetoed several attempts to make voting easier. In Arizona, Republicans control most of state government, minus the secretary of state’s office; in Florida, they run every element of the election process.

For the past few weeks, elections officials across the country have been talking frequently, sharing best practices and sometimes walking through the vote-by-mail process. The National Association of State Election Directors had been holding weekly conference calls, and Kim Wyman, the Democrat serving as Washington’s secretary of state, said her office had been in touch with officials in every other state, answering questions about vote-by-mail logistics.

They had demystified vote-by-mail’s anti-fraud measures, explaining that ballot envelopes must be signed, that county clerks call voters if there are problems with their ballots, and that they’ve been able to chase down the few cases where people voted twice. In Washington’s last election, 4.4 million ballots were cast but fewer than 100 ballots were flagged and none led to a criminal fraud investigation. Voter fraud remains rare, with high-profile cases representing a tiny fraction of votes cast each year.

Yet so far, in legislatures, the debate over adjusting voting systems to deal with the pandemic has broken across partisan lines. Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, called for universal vote-by-mail on March 18, one day after the state’s presidential primary. Republicans were skeptical, with state Rep. T.J. Shope telling the Arizona Republic that he saw “[an] appetite on the other side to take advantage of a crisis and do things they’ve been trying to get done for a very long time.”

Conservative pressure kept vote-by-mail out of last month’s coronavirus response package an succeeded in reducing funding that Democrats wanted for a switch to that system from $2 billion to $400 million. According to Wyman, vote- by-mail saved money in some ways, such as giving disabled voters a ballot instead of prepping every polling place for disabled access, but the pandemic is going to pile on more costs.

There is more but you get the idea.

The National Education Association has endorsed Joe Biden for the Democratic nomination for president.

The Los Angeles Times reports:

Joe Biden continued to consolidate support in his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination today when he won the endorsement of the National Education Assn., the country’s largest labor union. With 3 million members, the union’s announcement will probably accelerate Biden’s effort to cement his standing as the Democratic front-runner.

How much has changed in only one week!

A week ago, Biden was counted out and had almost run out of money.

Then came South Carolina, and African American voters picked Biden and turned him into a top contender. Endorsements by Klobuchar, Buttigieg, and Beto quickly buoyed Biden’s campaign.

Michael Bloomberg, the only open supporter of charter schools, was routed, despite spending more than all the other candidates put together. To everyone’s surprise, voters ignored Bloomberg’s effort to outspend everyone else, to open more offices and hire more staff. The nomination was not for sale. He did win America Samoa. But it’s only a matter of time—hours or days—until he drops out. He is no longer a factor. Now let’s see if he follows through with his pledge to support the Democratic nominee and to spend big money to match the Republican money juggernaut.

Trump doesn’t want to face Biden in November. He made that clear when he twisted the arm of the president of Ukraine to dig up dirt on Biden. He appealed publicly to China to find dirt on Biden.

I know that Sanders supports public schools. I hope that Biden doesn’t revive the Obama approach to education. Biden does support unions and recognizes that they built the middle class.

The election is not over. Warren remains but it’s hard to see how she survives after losing her home state. It’s come down to Sanders and Biden. I will gladly support either one.